Speaking out on sewage treatment

October 2014

Winner of letter writing contest.

In the July edition of Focus, a concerned citizen ran an advertisement calling on the CRD to perform a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that would compare the CRD’s proposed plan for McLoughlin Point, the current screened sewage discharge system, as well as one of the variations of expanded treatment being proposed by region citizens.

To encourage the public to write to their political representatives and request such an analysis, a prize of $1000 was offered for the letter “judged to present the best case,” with all letters received eligible for a draw for a $300 prize.

The winner of the draw is David Ferguson. The following letter, written by Brian Belton, was chosen for the $1000 prize. Belton also sent his letter to the federal and provincial Ministers of Environment and the Chair of the CRD Board.


Waste not, want not

By Brian Belton

My dear deceased mother, whom you may have known, once told me: “Son, so many of the problems of this world could be solved if people just did their job.”

By this I think she meant many people go through life shifting, shuffling, swerving, obfuscating and deceiving. Whether this be driven by sloth, ignorance, self-interest or just sheer incompetence, we all, in some form or other, suffer the consequences.

So, it’s with my Mom in mind that I write to say: “Stop! You’ve screwed up. Step back, acknowledge your mistakes. Start again. Take a second look. It is your job to get it right.”

I am referring, of course, to the decision-making process that has gone on over the past several years in an attempt to find a better way to treat Victoria’s waste. I’ve been following the debate with varying degrees of disbelief, dismay, shock and, yes, awe at the folly and frailty of the human condition.

 As a good citizen who has cast his ballot in every election possible for 50 years, I have always voted with the expectation that the candidates elected would exercise their wisdom to weigh the best possible information available before making their decision. I have always considered that to be the most important part of their job.

When Sir James Douglas sailed into Victoria harbour he said the area that greeted him was “a perfect Eden.” Many tourists bringing money to the city have marvelled at the sight since. What kind of wrong-headed thinking would lead anyone to put a sewage treatment plant on this beautiful waterfront?

That’s just one small example of how things have gone down the drain during the rush to solve a problem that many among us haven’t been convinced actually exists.

You need to do a better job examining all the information available about sewage treatment options and their consequences. Call it a comprehensive feasibility review if you will. Approach the issue rationally. Highly-trained and experienced marine scientists say you are on the wrong tack. Re-examine the science and give it due gravitas. Determine whether your approach will benefit the environment before you dive in the deep end. Please include an analysis of this mega-project’s effect, if any, beneficial or otherwise, on climate change. Respected engineers say you could have chosen better treatment options, but felt rushed by promises of funding from senior governments. Set aside those promises. Give the carrot back to those donkeys. It’s our money. It will still be there if common sense warrants it. Set aside your political biases. Get it right. As Mom also used to say: “Waste not, want not.”

 Might I add: I have no truck with ideologies, I have no axe to grind. When I vote my expectation is that I will get good management and sensible decisions made on my behalf. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

As a longtime taxpayer, may I be so bold to ask that you fulfil your part of the social contract?

                                                                                                                   Brian Belton, Oak Bay