In Washington state, Victoria sewage hits the fan

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @gchittimK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 5:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 11 at 5:13 PM

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and King County Executive Dow Constantine sent a strongly worded letter to Canadian authorities over a yet to be stemmed flow of raw sewage into Puget Sound waters.

“As the Governor of the state of Washington and the Executive of King County, we are very concerned by the lack of progress in treating wastewater and protecting the health and habitat of  Puget Sound,”  they said in the letter sent to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

The letter comes in response to an announcement last week that a deal for a new sewage treatment plant to be built to serve the rapidly growing Victoria area had fallen apart.

That announcement comes 20 years after Canadian officials first announced plans to build a facility.

During that time untreated sewage from the region has flowed untreated into waters near Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.

“We urge you to take action on this issue and resolve this impasse to ensure the timely delivery of wastewater treatment for this rapidly growing region, currently exceeding 300,000 residents,” the letter continued,  “Victoria’s current  lack of wastewater treatment impacts the State of Washington, King County, and the more than 3.5 million residents of the Puget Sound. We all share the regional and international waterways with Greater Victoria.”

Canadian officials met today to discuss the collapse the agreement and try to salvage it. They also vowed the treatment will be built; they just have to work through this latest delay.

The letter can be viewed in its entirety below.

STATE OF WASHINGTON
June 10, 2014
The Honourable Christy Clark
M.L.A., Westside - Kelowna
Premier of British Columbia
P0 Box 9041, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1
Dear Premier Clark:

We are writing to you concerning an ongoing issue that impacts the health of the waters of
the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, as well as our regionally connected economies:
wastewater treatment in Greater Victoria.
As the Governor of the state of Washington and the Executive of King County, we are very
concerned by the lack of progress in treating wastewater and protecting the health and habitat
of Puget Sound. We urge you to take action on this issue and resolve this impasse to ensure
the timely delivery of wastewater treatment for this rapidly growing region, currently
exceeding 300,000 residents. Victoria’s current lack of wastewater treatment impacts the
state of Washington, King County, and the more than 3.5 million residents of the Puget
Sound. We all share the regional and international waterways with Greater Victoria.
Wastewater treatment in Victoria has been an issue for the state of Washington, King County,
and the Province of British Columbia for over two decades. We believed and were
encouraged by commitments and assurances by the Province of British Columbia that the
region would soon be implementing a wastewater treatment strategy.
As you may recall, in 1993 Washington State tourism boycotts cancelled major conferences
and hotel bookings in Victoria. That year, our two jurisdictions came to an agreement that
Victoria would have primary sewage treatment in place by 2002 and secondary treatment
between 2008 and 2013.
Years later, former Washington State Governor, The Honorable Christine Gregoire, added
her support to the Province of British Columbia’s bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics,
provided Greater Victoria once again commit to move ahead with adequate wastewater
treatment. In 2006, B.C. Minister of Environment, Barry Penner, directed the Capital
Regional District to implement secondary wastewater treatment due to water quality issues at
its marine outfalls.

In 2010, residents of Puget Sound and Washington State House of Representatives applauded
the approval of a wastewater treatment strategy by Minister Penner, which enabled the
District to start the implementation phase of its wastewater management strategy. At that
time, the District was on track to meet its regulatory commitments to the Province of British
Columbia to provide sewage treatment for Greater Victoria by 2016.
In 2013, the District commenced construction on the approved wastewater treatment strategy,
since renamed the Seaterra Program. However, the Seaterra Program deadlines for
completion have been pushed out to 2018. We recently learned that your government has also
suggested these timelines could even be pushed back, once again, to 2020.
It is now more than 20 years since your Province agreed to implement wastewater treatment
in Greater Victoria, and yet today Victoria still lacks any treatment beyond simple screening.
Past commitments have not been implemented. Delaying this work to 2020 is not acceptable.
We are dismayed by the current developments concerning the construction of the wastewater
treatment plant as part of Greater Victoria’s wastewater treatment strategy. While the District
has an approved wastewater treatment strategy, its implementation appears to be stalled at the
local level. After years of discussion, planning and commitments on an inter-governmental
level, we urge you to get involved to ensure that this project moves forward.
Our region shares the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the health of this waterway is of interest to
both the State of Washington and King County. The state, in partnership with King County
and other local and regional governments, continues to take steps to improve the health of our
waters and restore habitat. We make needed investments to protect the waterbodies we all
share. We work collaboratively with all levels of government, tribes, businesses, and citizen
groups to lead and coordinate efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound. We have invested
heavily in ecosystem restoration and wastewater and storm water management projects and
have hundreds of millions of dollars committed to future investments. King County is also
directly supporting the Seaterra program through the approval of our Wastewater Treatment
Division Director’s participation as a Seaterra Commissioner.
However, the continued lack of adequate wastewater treatment in Greater Victoria — at the
entrance of Puget Sound — means Greater Victoria is not doing its fair share. This is of
significant concern for the health of the rest of the region’s waterways.
Just as we share our common waterway, Washington and British Columbia share many
common trade interests. The ongoing collaboration between our two inter-connected
economies on issues such as wastewater treatment will be essential to all of our success. Left
unresolved, Victoria’s lack of wastewater treatment has the potential to color other regional
and national issues at a time when our two countries are working to re-establish steady
economic growth through various cross-border initiatives. We would hope that this issue can
be resolved at the local and provincial level and strengthen the foundation for regional
economic growth and national cooperation.
The Honourable Christy Clark

We look forward to the day when all the communities that share the resources and benefits of
the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound make comparable commitments to clean water for
current and future generations.
Sincerely,
Jay Inslee Dow Constantine
Governor King County Executive
cc: The Honourable Mary Polak, M.L.A — Langley, Minister of Environment, Province of
British Columbia
Alastair Bryson, Chair, Capital Regional District Board

 

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