The theme of this book derives from the observation made by Hippocrates quoted at the beginning:-
"There are in fact two things, science and opinion: the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance"
The public has a right to have government decisions based on knowledge. It follows that the recommendations governments accept should be from those who have it, namely 'experts'. However, some do not trust experts. This clearly represents a different philosophy, for it implies that those whose views are to be accepted are those who know less than experts about it. Perhaps they feel that the politicians have a duty to do what is popular. A more reasonable view is that the politicians have a duty to ensure the public is properly informed.
This book is not to provide the author's views but to provide just such information. If the public is so informed and decides that it wants a treatment plant, so be it. It is conceivable to hold the view that a plant is desirable simply to protect the tourist industry.
What the public has a right to know is that to the author's knowledge no expert has yet stated that Victoria needs a treatment plant to protect the environment. There is not much variation in the views they hold and they are from a number of professions. Indeed, as will later be shown, the installation of a treatment plant would probably bring no environmental benefits but would certainly bring some environmental disbenefits. It is critical to understand that these views relate only to the two long outfalls that have been described. The application of the same principles of medicine, biology and physics in other locations commonly dicate the provision of secondary or tertiary treatment.
First to consider is the medical profession and in particular the public health officers. That marvelous profession tends to be more outspoken than others, even though medical health officers (MHOS) have to report to politicians. More power to them. In late years the CRD's MHOs have been Dr.A.S.Arneil, Dr.P.R.W.Kendall and, most recently, Dr.Shawn H.S.Peck.
They are building on the work of doctors who have developed the science of the matter over the last hundred years or so, but more particularly since the end of the 1939/45 war. Their knowledge derives from their years in training, of which everyone knows, followed by the specialist studies needed to cover the field of public health.
Their role, so far as our topic is concerned, is to know what conditions in receiving waters may damage the health of those who are in contact with it. Their most specific concern is to set 'coliform' levels which may not be exceeded. These are not themselves harmful but give a measure of the possibility of pathogens being present. They are also concerned with the possible adverse impact on health in receiving waters from toxic substances and these would be determined by measuring their level compared with limits which their profession has set.
Not one of them has yet suggested that the long outfalls at Macauley Point and Clover Point give rise to any such adverse condition. Not one of them has yet advocated the need for a treatment plant to replace them. They have repeatedly drawn attention to the adverse impact of other discharges. Dr. Kendall stated that "as far as I am aware there was no evidence of adverse environmental impact once one moved from the proximity of the diffusers, similarly there was no evidence of adverse human health effect...I would recommend further evaluation".
Although medical and other experts know what coliform and toxic material level is acceptable, they cannot predict before a discharge commences what the actual level will be. That depends on engineering mathematics using such factors as tidal conditions.
Next to consider is the biologist. His role is to be aware of what conditions are adverse to life forms in the receiving waters. In practice they are no more able to predict what conditions will arise from a discharge than the doctors. Their criteria are less specific. They proceed by scientific observation of the life forms before a discharge has commenced (if they are lucky) and the conditions after the discharge is in place.
The biologist most actively concerned has been Dr. Derek Ellis from the University of Victoria. He needs more information to update his views, as will be explained in a later chapter. However, although he has demonstrated changes in the main ecosystem, he does not consider them to be adverse; nor does he consider that they merit constructing a treatment plant.
Biological oceanographers study the biology of oceans and set the local scene in a broader context. In our case, Dr.Jack Littlepage has been working on the outfalls for many years. He does not advocate that we need a treatment plant. Indeed, he goes further in pointing out the benefits of our present long outfall discharges. His views are so germane and have been so well expressed on this matter that a separate chapter is devoted to them entitled Biological Oceanography.
Physical oceanographers study the physics of oceans. In our case, once again, a physical oceanographer has explained what happens in our local waters. He is Dr. Bob Stewart of world renown and one time Director of the Pat Bay Institute of Ocean Sciences. He spoke at an Engineering Institute of Canada Seminar and entitled his paper "Treatment Needs are Site-Specific",thus summarizing the essentials of good waste management in one phrase. He pointed out that the effect of the discharge of the Fraser river to the straits is to continually flush out the sea water lying off our shores into the Pacific. There is no build-up of anything.
Deeply involved in the organic and inorganic processes that are the basis of changes that lead to pollution is the chemist. K.A. Austin, recently of the provincial Ministry of the Environment but now retired, has worked on the monitoring of the long outfalls. He is adamant that we do not need a treatment plant. Neither Dr. Martin Hocking nor Dr. Kenneth Street, professors of chemistry at the University of Victoria believe we should be building a treatment plant. It is fair to add that Dr.Paul West, a chemist at that university and Director of the Environmental Program, recently gave a paper in which he considered whether it was desirable to adopt universal criteria to effectively control sewage discharges (the opposite to the 'site-specific view of Dr.Stewart). This issue is covered in the chapter on 'criteria'. However, once again, Dr.West has not suggested that the discharge from our long outfalls is doing any harm.
Last to consider is the environmental engineer. His work, like the doctor's, is built on over a hundred years of practical experience, becoming more and more scientifically precise as the years have advanced. He must know of the work of all the other professions to some extent as he is the one who designs the facilities to meet the criteria they have set. To do that, he must understand the impact of wastes on the environment. Accordingly, the environmental engineer today has a thorough grounding in the processes that dictate conditions in the receiving waters. (Garry Butchart, one of the engineers in the provincial Ministry of the Environment went on a course to the biological station at Bamfield and came out top of the class.) No profession has done as badly as environmental engineers in explaining their work. That has been bad for the profession and worse for the public.
All municipal engineers have some grounding in environmental engineering and some of the engineers employed by the municipalities have advanced environmental engineering qualifications. None have suggested that treatment is necessary so far as is known. No whisper of support for their political masters on this issue has ever reached the press.
If it were decided to build a treatment plant, that also would be done by the engineer. If he is required to build one, he faces a quandary. The best way to avoid pollution is by a long outfall rather than a treatment plant and that is what various engineers have continually pointed out. If he is none the less required to build a plant, he will be doing so in the knowledge that he is not best serving the public interest, as his code of ethics dictates that he should. Some years ago, the city of Comox proposed to follow their consultants advice and build a long outfall instead of a treatment plant. The public would not have it and the engineers were subject to considerable abuse. The long outfall had to be abandoned in favour of the plant. The consultants finished with a far higher fee in this bizarre world.
In closing this section it should be added that professional engineers have recommended and built over one hundred secondary treatment plants and some tertiary plants to serve British Columbia municipalities. The fee our profession would derive from designing and overseeing a secondary plant for Victoria would be of the order of one million dollars. No-one gains more from such works than engineers. It is the integrity of that profession that has prevented the construction of one for Victoria, where it is not needed, over the last 20 years.
The experts mentioned above are those who have been involved in studying our local situation. However, behind them is a wealth of information garnered over the years by specialists in one or other of the disciplines mentioned. A selection of the things they have deduced are quoted below. There is broad agreement in all of the deductions they have made. There is simply no body of contrary information after 40 or more years of research. This book is not intended to take the place of a professional paper. Accordingly full references are not given but these can readily be obtained by anyone seeking such detail.
In summary, the disposal of screened sanitary sewage to the sea is the best way to prevent pollution where tidal conditions are suitable. They are eminently suitable of Victoria's shores, but unsuitable, for example, off the shores of Seattle.
A paper by Pike and Gameson in the Journal of The Institute of Water Pollution Control in 1970:-
"There is no significant difference between the two principles on public health considerations [i.e.long outfalls versus land treatment] but marine treatment through long outfalls has considerable advantages on the grounds of amenity and the likely effect on the local environment"and again
"It would appear to be economically unsound to spend many millions of dollars in ...the generally more expensive alternative of providing full treatment solely to allay unfounded public suspicions..."A reference by Jessop in the Journal of The Water Pollution Control Federations in 1975 refers to:-
"..Congress abandoning requirements that secondary treatment be provided for all sea discharges. The evidence before congress was overwhelming"A reference by Betz, Director of the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation in 1980:-
"West Coast outfalls discharging sewage without treatment have consistently been shown to have no harmful effects on the ocean"Knill summarizing the work of a symposium on sea outfalls in The Public Health Engineering Journal in 1981:-
"It will be seen that the only criterion which is clearly in favour of inland treatment [out of 11 environmental and one public acceptability] is public acceptability"U.K.Royal Commission on environmental pollution in 1984:- "With well designed sewage outfalls we believe that discharge to the sea is not only acceptable but in many cases environmentally preferable" Allen and Sharp in The Canadian Institute of Civil Engineering Journal in 1987:-
"Provided they are well designed, ocean outfalls generally present fewer environmental problems than land-based treatment plants, and this is obvious when the complete environmental picture is studied for both types of facility"Cooper and Jack in a Water Research Laboratory publication in 1987:-
"There is sound scientific evidence that well designed, sensibly located and efficiently operated sea outfalls allow the sewage effluent to be subjected to the same processes of degradation and oxidation that occur in land-based sewage treatment plants"The Engineering News Record reporting comments by Harleman in 1989:- "Secondary treatment is not necessary for coastal waters because of tidal action and the enormous aeration provided by the ocean. [Harleman claims Water Authority officials agree with him privately but are unwilling to buck the Federal Environmental Protection Agency because of political ramifications - also that his views have received the support of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography]"
It will be noted that some of the above quotes arise from the combined work of a number of specialists and that several draw specific attention to the fact that long outfalls can be BETTER environmentally than land based treatment. It will also be noted that the specialists in three countries agree.
The picture painted above is an extraordinary one. The public does not have to choose between the views of some experts and the views of others. None of them advocate that we need a treatment plant. All have excellent qualifications and have devoted their lives to their professions in their various fields. It is reasonable to suppose that they not only know most about the matters their disciplines cover, but that they care most for the environment, or they would not have pursued the careers they chose.