Opinion: Treating Victoria’s sewage affordably

Outside-the-box thinking may find solutions to sewage treatment challenges

Victoria has had great difficulty moving ahead with centralized sewage processing because of concerns about cost, odour and unsightliness.

If we encourage our engineers to think outside the box, there may be an answer to these problems.  There are many different primary and secondary treatment approaches. One city in the U.S. does it with a fountain in the desert, for example, although most use a form of sewage lagoon, often with large rotating paddles.

In all cases the basic objective is to aerate the waste stream so that aerobic bacteria, which neutralize the biological matter (human waste, food waste, soaps and detergent), can continue to receive oxygen and continue multiplying. Then the treated sludge is removed to landfill sites so that the plant doesn’t fill up and overflow, and the treated liquid is released.

In plants discharging into highly sensitive ecosystems like small inland lakes, tertiary treatment to help with disinfection is often incorporated prior to discharge.

One new idea is to turn our existing sewer infrastructure into an enormous primary and secondary treatment plant by injecting oxygen and microbes. Turbulence in the pipes would allow the bacteria to touch everything in them and thoroughly clean the waste. We could introduce the oxygen and microbes far upstream so that there is sufficient time to enable complete bacterial treatment.

All of the sewer infrastructure would be underground, underwater and invisible. There would be no need to change the existing equipment at Clover Point and Macaulay Point. There would be no smell. The capital cost would be low.

The operating cost would be negligible, because there would be no need to collect and remove the treated sludge to a landfill (which drives the operating cost of the currently proposed sewer plants up to $25 million per year). It would be deposited on the sea floor just like the silt from every creek and river flowing into the ocean. It is all natural.

The injection equipment could be installed in existing houses or in other buildings. Camouflaged utility buildings are normal.

Probably all of this could be accomplished for less than $50 million rather than the currently proposed $1 billion, and we can move ahead quickly because the public’s concern about plant location will disappear. I don’t advocate tertiary treatment in our situation (usually accomplished via the addition of chlorine or other chemicals) because it isn’t environmentally necessary, however, if eventually deemed important it could be added later.

I do think we should continually remind ourselves to reduce the chemicals and drugs we flush down the drain. Estrogen, for example, is a real problem. Victorians are concerned about the environment as is indicated by our litter-free streets and our heavily used blue box program. We will be careful about the sewer as well if we understand the harm our chemicals can cause to the creatures in the sea.

With a little prompting, out-of-date medicines and drugs will be returned to pharmacies for proper disposal. Also, the use of detergents, shampoos and other household products with problematic ingredients will be reduced if a list is distributed that ranks them according to these chemicals.

David Black

civil engineer, MBA

(David Black is owner of Black Press, which publishes the Oak Bay News)

 

 

Just Posted

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

West Shore RCMP K9 Halla. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sound of RCMP dog enough to stop suspects in Oak Bay

West Shore RCMP K9 unit called in, didn’t get to chase

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

Most Read