Letter: Runoff, habitat loss, climate change key water concerns

Water issues haven't changed between 1990s and now

I would like to provide some perspective on the importance of the marine waters between British Columbia and Washington State, in response to the article recently published in the Oak Bay News, “Sewage in the CRD: U.S. neighbours impatient over sewage scenario.”

For background, I served as the chair of the British Columbia-Washington Marine Science Panel in the 1990s, appointed by then Premier Mike Harcourt and Governor Mike Lowry of Washington.

My U.S. and Canadian colleagues and I were charged with answering questions about the health and potential for mixing of water, fish, and other organisms between the waters of Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Georgia, from a scientific perspective.

We answered this charge by investigating the issues in an open scientific meeting, consulting with scientists and practitioners working in the area, and extensively examining the scientific literature.

The topic at hand – the discharge from two small CRD outfalls into the Strait of Juan de Fuca -– was one of many aspects we examined.

Based on the evidence: a lack of toxic chemicals in the Clover and Macaulay Point wastewater streams (little industrial activity on the Island contributing heavy metals and toxic organics); the discharge method (screening the material to mm size, discharging at depth into fast flowing water away from shore); and no monitoring findings that the plume or its effects could be seen more than a few meters from the discharge pipe); we concluded that the discharge was not likely to be harmful to the marine environment, nor be detectable far from the discharge point off Victoria.

This was our scientific conclusion, not a politically driven opinion.

There are other concerns that ought to worry citizens and officials in the waters of the straits and Puget Sound, including water quality degradation from drainage of contaminated road runoff onto beaches, and deterioration in the health of fish and marine mammals due to habitat loss and climate change.

These are the issues we highlighted in the early 1990s and they should remain the priority concerns of today.

Andrea E. Copping, PhD.

Chair, British Columbia-Washington

Marine Science Panel

Edmonds WA