March 2013 edition

A significant risk

I would like to thank Leslie Campbell for her February editorial with its poignant report of her conversation with Beverley Mitchell. The whole piece spoke in clear and completely understandable human terms about the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, as she sat looking out of Bev’s window pondering the outcome of an oil spill in our front yard. 

Not only is media reportage often unreliable but sometimes even well-informed writing is couched in terms that make it difficult to fully understand the implications for the general reader. 

Dr Graham’s presentation at the hearings was hugely significant. I also particularly liked, in Bev’s letter to BC’s Minister of the Environment, her reference to Jesus walking on the water because, in many ways, miracles are what are often being discussed regarding the progress of these oil tankers. This one has particular significance coming from a Sister of St Ann’s!

Penny Joy


Oil-free art

In response to the airy musings of Chris Creighton-Kelly, the point he is missing is that we artists got together and spent time and energy to create paintings that would show the beauty and wonder of this special pristine wilderness. The prices are a fair and conservative market value of all the artists’ work; this is what people pay for our paintings. Why would we give our work away when our goal is not only to create awareness but to raise as much money as we can to fight the proposed pipeline? Surely Creighton-Kelly would agree with this since in principle, while relaxing in his favourite spot in France, he agrees with our cause. Come on Chris—some support would be nice.

He raises some valid questions about things we could have done differently. However, we’re working professionals, as are the people who organized this protest. Organizing artists from different parts of BC is no easy task and I for one am grateful that they made the effort and gave us the opportunity to do something positive. The end result is a beautiful book and and a spectacular exhibition of some of BC’s best artists. Our art may not be to your taste but it is to others and it’s accessible with a clear message. If you feel so strongly Chris Creighton-Kelly, then get out there and do something.

This protest calls for people to support every effort to save our coast and end the madness of this proposed pipeline. It’s too serious for light-hearted criticism of those who are actually doing something about it.

Julia Hargreaves


Chris Creighton-Kelly responds:

I did not question the intentions of any of the participating artists. I clearly understood that these artists wanted to “show the beauty and wonder of this special pristine wilderness.”

I am simply not convinced that Art for an Oil-Free Coast was an effective way of communicating to our fellow citizens the serious ecological concerns about pipelines, tankers and tar sands. That is why I raised some rigourous, not airy or light-hearted, questions.

I agree with Ms Hargreaves that we must “end the madness of this proposed pipeline.” Those of us working against the powerful interests of oil companies know that it is a complex, constant, sometimes contradictory struggle. It seems to me that evaluating what works, what does not, and why, is both a critical and necessary part of our collective opposition.


Stumbles on the Path Forward 

The article by David Broadland (January 2013) tries to support the view that the planning process for the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Program was narrow, discounted alternative approaches and technologies, and was therefore flawed. An objective evaluation of the facts clearly does not support such a proposition.

Fact: Since the initial planning report The Path Forward was published in June 2007, significant changes have taken place to the program configuration such that it is no longer pertinent.

Fact: Multiple options for the liquids treatment were considered, from a single treatment plant to multiple plants throughout the service area. The cost estimate for the multiple plant option increased with the number of plants.

Fact: The final technology for the liquids treatment facility has not been chosen. A representative technology has been selected for budgeting purposes and to show that construction of the treatment facility at McLoughlin Point is feasible.

Fact: Multiple options for processing biosolids were considered and evaluated. These included sludge digestion with beneficial re-use of residual biosolids, and [converting] waste to energy using raw sludge as well as digested sludge (biosolids).

Fact: The accuracy of the cost estimate is based on preliminary level design. The final cost will depend on a number of factors such as market conditions, change in the cost of materials and labour, as well as interest rates.

The CRD wastewater treatment program has generated international interest so the CRD can anticipate the best possible outcomes from the best minds in the industry. The citizens of the region can rest assured that the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee has considered all feasible alternatives brought forward and has created a process that will encourage the private sector bidders to propose the most innovative solutions available to address the region’s sewage treatment needs.

Denise Blackwell, Chair,

Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee 


Focus invited CRD Director Vic Derman to respond to Denise Blackwell. Derman has been a member of the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee since its inception in 2006: 

Denise Blackwell puts forward a number of points as “facts.” With all respect, I disagree with Chair Blackwell about the accuracy of these “facts.”

Significant changes have been made to the original The Path Forward document; however, the core concept it presented of building a large central plant at the end of the current collection system remains the same. 

A comparison of The Path Forward with decentralized systems with more satellite plants was carried out. However, Option 1, basically The Path Forward, was selected even though it was almost 6 times less effective than Option 2 in greenhouse gas reduction. Furthermore, the report concluded Option 1 was not particularly viable for heat recovery since major infrastructure was located too far from potential users. Options 2 and 3, on the other hand, were seen to be quite viable. Finally, none of these options were designed from the ground up around resource recovery and none were designed to take advantage of development anticipated in the Regional Growth Study. 

Final technology for the liquids treatment plant may not have been chosen, but a very aggressive time frame for the procurement phase, to be managed by an appointed commission, suggests that major changes in the current proposal are unlikely. 

As for the biosolids, I brought a proposal to the committee with the potential to save as much as $200 million in capital costs, save $3-$4 million in annual operating costs and allow utilization of much smaller sites than currently required. The response was a suggestion that this could be considered at the procurement stage. That, of course, is when the project is in the hands of an appointed commission with elected politicians having only limited control. Hopefully, the commission will fully investigate such possibilities, but what if they don’t? Surely, the committee should not have left the opportunity for such dramatic savings up to an appointed commission operating on a very tight timeline. 

Blackwell is correct that final costs have not been definitely established. However, that is hardly comforting. Current estimates are based on continued low interest rates over a 25-year payback period. There is no guarantee that this will happen. Also, there is the possibility of cost overruns, a problem that has afflicted virtually every major government project built recently in British Columbia. If overruns do take place, they will be entirely covered by local taxpayers since federal and provincial governments have capped their contributions. This could increase local taxes dramatically.

In the end, I hope things will work out for the best. I most certainly, however, can’t see any reason to “rest assured.”

Vic Derman, CRD Director and member of the Core Area Liquid Waste Committee


Notes from subscribers

Reading Focus magazine’s insightful articles is one of my pleasures when visiting Victoria—an important voice for the environment that Mr Harper hasn’t yet muzzled. Congrats on a consistently well-written, informative publication with a stellar events calendar.

Gerri Thorsteinson (prairie snowbird)


Your investigative reporting makes you a must-read magazine. Perhaps David Broadland or Rob Wipond could devote some of their research into the many publicly-funded boards and authorities that, in some cases, seem to have more power than our elected officials.

Elinor Rhynas