Residents in Sooke are concerned about the imminent tax hikes to pay for the new sewer system.
The Sooke Harbour and Basin, and local rivers and streams, form an integral part of our environment. Everything we do on the land flows down into the Harbour and Basin.
This includes surface run off, and ground water. Previous studies have indicated a few hot spots for fecal coliforms and contaminants. These are usually concentrated around marinas and the downtown core. The studies measured concentrations in periods of high rainfall, which flushes out any residual substances on and in the ground. This is not a typical state of the environment.
Furthermore, the highest levels of contaminants are around marinas. Fecal coliforms are also produced by natural causes, such as animals on hobby farms and birds. There is a large population of resident and migratory birds in the Sooke estuary, wich are a major source of fecal coliforms. Similarly, the CRD is trying to manage inputs of fecal coliforms around the Sooke Lake due to the high populations of geese.
So, the actual source of fecal coliforms and contaminants has not been proven to originate from septic tanks in the Sooke Core. There are other sources.
Even so, the Mayor and Council would have us believe that we need a sewer system because of failing septic systems in the Core, which is not true and has not been proven by any studies to date.
The proposed sewer system will have a sewage outfall into the ocean just outside of Sooke Harbour and Basin.
The sewer study prepared by Stantec Consulting does not include an assessment on the environmental impacts in the marine environment. The consultant stated that they do not have the marine biology expertise in their firm to assess the impacts on the marine environment.
Furthermore, this same consulting firm specializes in designing, building and operating traditional sewer collection systems with outfalls.
The sewage will be treated to remove solids and human bacteria. The effluent will still contain dissolved solids, contaminants, metals, and endocrine disrupting chemicals which change male fish to female fish.
Furthermore, the sewage effluent will be fresh water. The fresh water will be piped into the ocean, which is a salt water environment.
Ocean organisms have evolved over millions of years to live in a marine environment, and will not be able to survive in the area around the sewage outfall. This is known as the dead zone.
Furthermore, contaminants and dissolved pollutants will bioaccumulate in tiny zooplankton floating through the water column and move right up the food chain into other animals. The contaminants that settle to the ocean floor, will accumulate in the sediments and create a zone of geophysical accumulation and concentration.
There have been recent studies by scientists in Europe that link sewer outfalls to the decline in fish populations because chemicals known as endocrine disruptors cause male fish to become female fish, a condition which is called 'gender bending'.
The mini report prepared by D. Bright, is not a quantified environmental assessment or a quantified risk assessment. Rather it is an overview of the possibilities and bases it's recommendations on data from November 1979 and January 1999, which are periods of high flushing and not truly representative of the norm. One of the main premises in Mr. Brights recommendations, is that the discharge from Sooke might not have a serious effect because of the minimal amount of discharge. Well, the fallacy is that this statement fails to address any growth at all and also fails to address the cummulative effects of contaminants in the sediments in the long term.
Furthermore, it is interesting to note the relationships between Mr. Bright, and Mr. Boydell, who previously completed the studies for the CRD and the Blackstone Properties recommending sewer outfalls for this region. The D. Bright report is biased to support the objectives of Mayor and Council.So, where are the fecal coliforms and contaminants really coming from?
The fecal coliforms are probably coming from animal sources in the harbour such as cattle farm run off and birds. Recent studies by students at Royal Roads University show that the highest levels of coliforms are in the Sooke River and DeMamiel River just below hobby farms. Additional inputs of fecal coliforms are from the boats in the marinas. Marinas that undertake cleaning of boat hulls also add significant loadings of metals into the environment.
It would be a lot cheaper to fix up a few of the failing septic tanks than to install a $16 million dollar sewer treatment system, OOPs, that's now a $24 million dollar system and the size of the area that has to hook up has almost doubled overnight.
Who knows what the true cost is to the environment over the long term. The scientific field of completing cummulative risk assessments in complex ecosystems that include marine systems, fresh water systems, and human impacts has not yet developed a model to predict with any significant level of confidence, what the true costs will be.
What are the long term impacts of having many sewer outfalls at every village, town, and city from Seattle to Alaska? in ten years? in 25 years? in 50 years? in 100 years?
If you have specific questions to ask, or information that you would like to add, please
WRATH has submitted a sewer study counter proposal to the grant review committee. Click here to review the executive summary of the counter proposal.