Treating Victoria’s sewage affordably

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

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 Victoria News.)

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bill Phelps’s life has changed since he was able to get a safe pharmaceutical alternative to fentanyl after his pain medication was cut off a couple of years ago. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Unhoused community in Greater Victoria struggles to access safe supply

Safer Victoria Project working to connect people sheltering outside with pharmaceutical alternatives

John Roney has been working on Beneath the Emerald Sea for about a year now and expects it to be released in fall of 2021. (Provided by John Roney)
Victoria man films underwater documentary about sea life around Vancouver Island

John Roney expects Under the Emerald Sea to be released in 2021

Cole Byers and Jasmine Grant are taking a leap of faith and opening The Rack Westcoast Bistro in Langford, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Langford residents making “all-in move” opening restaurant amid COVID-19 pandemic

Although The Rack Westcoast Bistro isn’t officially open yet, it’s serving anyone who wanders in

Victoria police are looking for information after a man was seen spray painting over a section of the More Justice, More Peace mural Oct. 31. (Victoria Police Department)
More Justice, More Peace mural vandalized days after new change

A man was seen spray painting over the artists’ statement Saturday morning

A 2.5-magnitude earthquake occurred beneath San Juan Island, Wash. – 25 kilometres from Sidney – late on Oct. 30. (Screenshot via United States Geological Survey)
Minor Washington earthquake felt in Sidney, Victoria

U.S. seismologists report 2.5-magnitude quake late Friday

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for information about William Mack, last seen in Duncan on Oct. 28. (File photo)
Police searching for missing man last seen near Duncan

William Mack, 72, was seen on Gibbins Road on Oct. 28

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read