Thursday, July 31, 2008

Global warming means more raw sewage in Vancouver's water: report

Vancouver Sun: Public health and safety threats are escalating in Metro Vancouver because an aging sewage handling and treatment system will fail more often as a result of climate change, according to a federal report uncovered by The Vancouver Sun. The report says heavier rainstorms will frequently overwhelm portions of the region's sewage system and accelerate the spill of raw sewage into Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia.

That means more raw sewage will be dumped into the ocean more often, in apparent violation of the Fisheries Act. Senior regional officials and politicians have in the past been threatened with prosecution under this act, although neither the federal nor the provincial government has to date shown any inclination to enforce it.

More raw sewage spills also mean more health risks to people using the inlet for recreation - swimming, windsurfing, sailing and fishing. Environmental groups, including the David Suzuki Foundation, were outraged to hear about the contents of the report. They are calling on regional and civic governments to act now to "avoid potential disasters including extreme impacts on human health caused by system failures."

A Metro Vancouver politician promised that the region is already developing plans to address the situation. But he warned that accelerating the schedule for new sewage treatment facilities would place an additional burden on the region's taxpayers.

…They were produced for Natural Resources Canada by a climate research committee of Engineers Canada, the organization representing 160,000 engineers nationwide. The reports, which deal with seven Canadian communities, look at a wide range of infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, flood protection and water treatment facilities that may not function properly as a consequence of extreme weather events emerging as a result of climate change. The reports represent Canada's most detailed look to date at the physical consequences of climate change on critical public assets….

A view of False Creek bristling with boats, shot from the Granville St. Bridge by Jon Eben Field, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative CommonsAttribution 2.0 License from Vancouver, BC, Canada

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