Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Poop happens: The debate about how we manage biowaste is serious

Critics challenge the CRD's recent public consultation on biosolids

Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Poop happens: The debate about how we manage biowaste is serious

Critics challenge the CRD's recent public consultation on biosolids

Hartland Landfill. Photo: CRD
Hartland Landfill. Photo: CRD
Municipal
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Poop happens: The debate about how we manage biowaste is serious

Critics challenge the CRD's recent public consultation on biosolids

Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Poop happens: The debate about how we manage biowaste is serious
Hartland Landfill. Photo: CRD

Poop and the question of what to do with it seems to be a singularly contentious issue for the CRD and one that has been floating around, in one form or another, for years. It was only in 2017 that Victoria finally decided to stop dumping its raw sewage into the waters off its coast and build the $1B sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point. Now, it has a new problem: What to do with all of the bio-waste that is currently accumulating in its Saanich Hartland landfill?

Directing bio sludge to landfill is more an emergency than a long-term solution and the province itself is asking the CRD to come up with a plan for it by spring.

In a move to reach one, the CRD launched a public consultation on the (fecal) matter, which some members of the public are labeling ‘flushable,’ mainly because the solutions it posits have already been rejected by lawmakers and members of its board multiple times. Moreover, many criticize the CRD for its efforts to present the public with enough balanced information on the potential harm land applications of bio-solids pose for humans and the environment.

Biosolids are the byproduct of the region’s wastewater treatment processes and must meet stringent environmental standards. The CRD produces the highest quality biosolids obtainable, known as “Class A” biosolids. There is an olfactory joke to be made in there somewhere but the reality is the conundrum is a real stinker because there is no easy, cheap, and cheerful solution for it. Right now, they are simply accumulating at the Hartland Landfill in Saanich, and some people there are already upset the CRD’s waste issue has become theirs.

Bio-solids contain beneficial nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur, iron, and others that all support the growth of plants and crops. But there is also a plethora of scientific, evidence-based research demonstrating that repacking water treatment sludge into fertilizer and putting it into the food chain has real risks, including filling crops, livestock, and people with pharmaceutical derivates, PFAs (per-and polyfluorinated substances or chemicals used to make heat resistant products) and other harmful ‘forever’ chemicals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and PCBs. Scientist’s concerns extend to the impact of land-applied bio-solids on air quality as well.  Health Canada is in the process of adding PFAS as a class to the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

Last June, based on “long-standing CRD board policy,” the Environmental Committee recommended that the CRD consider only “non-agricultural land application of biosolids” and “as a short-term contingency alternative.” And yet, in its public consultation material, the CRD presents using bio-solids as bagged fertilizer for residential use as one long-term option. 

Hugh Stephens, a fellow of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and member of the Mount Work Coalition, which promotes the safe stewardship of the area,  isn’t happy with what he’s seeing in the public consultation materials. “Among the options presented in the information provided by the CRD are (1) industrial land reclamation (2) forest fertilization (3) bagged fertilizer for residential use (4) fertilizer for agriculture (5) wholesale fertilizer for landscaping, none are actually approved use according to current CRD policy.”

Former Victoria councillor not sold on CRD's direction

Former Victoria City coun. Philippe Lucas, who in 2011 worked with the Peninsula Biosolids Coalition and the Sierra Club BC to have bio-solids banned from land applications, wrote a letter of concern to the CRD’s Board. He, too, is asking that the consultation be canned. He’d like to see the CRD consultation “restructured to include a third-party evaluation of the risks and benefits of various methods to dispose of biosolids and the prior input of the Technical Advisory Committee (which was formed for this purpose,) and opportunities for in-person engagement. with the board.”

“It feels a bit like a sham consultation,” said Lucas “given that over the last 15 years, the majority of CRD Board members have voted against the land application of biosolids… sometimes unanimously, sometimes by a small majority, but nonetheless consistently and at every occasion.” “They’re not presenting information to the public in a fair unbiased way and what you don’t learn is major European countries have banned the land application of bio-solids following their experiences with because of the degradation of natural environment and impacts on public health.”

Survey seen as a incomplete

Even the consultation survey drew criticism. “There's only one question on it, said Stephens, “about why does the CRD have a ban on bio-solid use?” 

Winona Pugh, one of the members chosen to serve on the CRD Technical Advisory Committee for liquid waste management said “preparing surveys for the public that are informed and unbiased for people unfamiliar with the subject matter is really important. This is especially true,” she said, “when surveys are designed by third-party consultants who are not necessarily from the region.”

Each of its critics had some recommendations for the CRD. “In the name of transparency and fairness,” Stephens said, “we're calling on politicians to pull this back to suspend this consultation until we have a balanced document that informs the public as to the cost of the benefits, I guess, and the costs of the various options. In a scientific way, this fall was neither the science nor board policy nor is the costing remotely balanced or fair.” 

Lucas said there was “really no excuse not to include all the information and have something fully balanced and balanced right.”

“The CRD has had a lot of time to address this issue,” said Lucas. With the provincial request for a solution imminently approaching, the consultation appears at the 11th hour. 

Related News

Saanich releases its proposed road safety plan
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.