There are two ways to address technical problems - the way of science and the way of opinion. The way of science is to start with no preconceptions to find the truth. The way of opinion is to start with preconceptions and set out to prove them. Man began to progress when he adopted the former. On Dec.14th, 1988, Mrs. Susan Bryce, the chairman of the CRD, stated "I will formally propose to the Board that the terms of the Liquid Waste Management plan be built upon the objective of complete on-land treatment", thus setting course on the latter with a vengeance. She was not alone. Every politician who spoke about the matter had jumped on the same bandwagon.
If nothing had been known about sewage disposal in Victoria it would have been an unfortunate beginning. As it was, there was a mass of information about it, all obtained at public expense, and none of it supporting the notion that land treatment would benefit our environment. This information was not tucked away in some obscure corner. It was all right there in the CRD offices and its existence well known.
Fortunately there was technical input in setting terms of reference for the plan and one section states "in view of public concern, comparison of direct outfall disposal and land-based treatment should be specifically addressed."
On April 26th.1979, the CRD appointed a Liquid Waste Management Plan Commissioner. He held a Ph.D and his qualifications were in Arts, Physical Geography and Philosophy and he never claimed to be an expert on the subject of sewage disposal. However, there are numerous precedents for appointing an eminent scientist, jurist or other professional to make an independent examination of the evidence on a technical matter. Their lack of bias may well be a benefit rather than a hindrance.
The patent bias of his political masters, however, made the Commissioner's position difficult, if not impossible, particularly as many of them had made a commitment to promote treatment. Concerns as to the course the plan might take were not alleviated by a statement made before any submissions had been received, as reported in 'Monday' magazine in the following July, that secondary treatment was viewed as the only long-term solution. Then on Aug.30th. the local Victoria newspaper "Star" reported that the reason coliform counts were consistently high in areas such as Ross Bay "is largely because the (Clover Point and Macauley Point) outfalls are too short". Perhaps the news media misunderstood what had been said. At all events the statement, as reported, contradicts the evidence which indicates just the opposite.
In a progress report issued in November there is an observation that "treatment alone will not clear up all of the beaches". The implication is patent, but in fact treatment alone will not clear up any beaches.
The Commissioner's preliminary report implies that the evidence that marine discharges do no harm is matched by other evidence which indicates to the contrary. However, the evidence is not given and there is no documentation in support of this view. The opinions of successive medical health officers are not given, nor those of Dr.Ellis, nor Dr. Littlepage, nor Dr.Stewart, nor any of the others who have worked on the theory of this matter, nor its local application.
After one year's work, involving preparation of technical submissions by many of those involved, the meeting of various committees, the holding of public meetings and much other work, the Commissioner's final report was published 14 months after the CRD Chairman's pronouncement quoted at the start of this chapter.
Regarding the comparison between land-based treatment and long outfall disposal the last but one paragraph states:-
"If long outfalls discharging screened sewage are not the answer, then neither is sewage treatment, in itself. The need is for collective action in the wise management of liquid wastes. We have an opportunity, in the Capital Regional District, to seek the middle ground between the two choices for the treatment of our liquid wastes, and in so doing to take advantage of the benefits of both."
At the time of writing, a firm of Seattle Consulting Engineers ave been retained to report on what different levels of treatment will achieve. Apparently they have also agreed to look at the existing system. However, they could very reasonably presume from the wording that the CRD have already decided that treatment is to be provided. There is no onus on the consultants to advise what is the minimum cost of meeting acceptable criteria in the sea. It is difficuilt to imagine anything that will more confuse the issue, somewhat like advising a man how to overcome his cancer when he does not have cancer.
It all reads as though Susan Bryce's original concept remains the hidden agenda.