By Rikki Swin
Special to the Journal
Our archipelago is flushed by a torrent of water that originates primarily with the Fraser River in British Columbia.
The outflow of the Fraser peaks in the months May through August at 10,000 cubic meters per second which is equivalent to four times the volume of water that flows over Niagara Falls!
Eighty-five percent of this water flows toward our archipelago, the balance flows north. We literally have the best flushed coastal waters anywhere in the lower 48.
This is all documented by The Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney B.C. There is a wonderful video by the highly credentialed ocean sciences and technology development oceanographer, Dr. David Hyde. Google “Ocean Circulation and Sedimentation in the San Juans Archipelago.”
This enormous flow combined with untreated waste from Vancouver waste treatment facilities may be the heart of our “dead sea” problem. In 2015 The Vancouver Sun published a list of the ten worst polluters in B.C. They reported, “The biggest emitters of major eutrophying water pollutants (eutrophy describes a condition where nutrients displace oxygen in the water making it difficult for life to exist) are waste-treatment facilities, primarily ammonia and to a lesser extent phosphorus and nitrates.
Metro Vancouver’s Annacis Island and Iona Island treatment plants dwarfed the list at 6,058 and 4,362 tonnes, respectively. Under the case of major non-eutrophying water pollutants, Prince George Pulp and Paper and Intercontinental Pulp Mills topped the list at 95.9 tonnes.”
In 2007 Provincial Court trial dates were set to hear charges that effluent from the Lions-Gate sewage treatment plant were polluting coastal waters and violating federal Canadian environmental law.
Repeated failures of toxicity tests, documented in numerous reports submitted by the Greater Vancouver Regional District revealed the facility discharges 33 billion liters of sewage each year removing less than 40 percent of the organic matter and not removing most heavy metals or organic pollutants.
Most regrettably, Canada stayed the charges until 2030, thus allowing the pollution to continue.
“This decision to stop the prosecution means the foul mix of human waste and toxic chemicals will continue their way into the Burrard Inlet and Georgia Strait,” said Dave Lane, Executive Director of T. Buck Suzuki Foundation.
To make matters worse, the Canadian agency BIEAP-FREMP that dealt with the misgivings of rampant Strait of Georgia pollution closed its doors in 2013 after 28 years.
This deplorable condition will only grow worse with rising population, combined with pollution monitoring/challengers that have become non-existent. The Vancouver area has 2-3 million people compared to our less than 20,000. Surely it’s a good thing to clean up our watershed, but it may also be a waste of valuable time.
Isn’t it time to seek a stronger voice such as our own Environmental Protection Agency to apply pressure at a federal level? What if our wonderful action groups and individuals got together to appeal our case to the EPA to take action? By spinning our wheels with local ordinances that may be well meaning, we may accomplish nothing toward saving the ocean populations of fish and other dependent wildlife.
Swin, a San Juan resident, is a retired business owner, engineer, and inventor