The McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Esquimalt, B.C., is seen on Friday, January 8, 2021. The Greater Victoria area no longer uses surrounding ocean waters to flush away raw effluent now that a $775 million sewage plant has started treating the equivalent of 43 Olympic-sized pools of waste daily. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The McLoughlin Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in Esquimalt, B.C., is seen on Friday, January 8, 2021. The Greater Victoria area no longer uses surrounding ocean waters to flush away raw effluent now that a $775 million sewage plant has started treating the equivalent of 43 Olympic-sized pools of waste daily. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Victoria no longer flushes raw sewage into ocean after area opens treatment plant

Victoria was the last remaining major community to pump raw sewage into surrounding waters

The Greater Victoria area no longer uses surrounding ocean waters to flush away raw effluent now that a $775 million sewage plant has started treating the equivalent of 43 Olympic-sized pools of waste daily.

The opening of the system was recently celebrated online by political and environmental leaders after decades of effort to get a sewage treatment plant.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan told Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in the video call that Victoria started dumping its raw sewage into ocean waters that flow towards Puget Sound in the United States in1894.

“As a born and raised Victorian, I’ve been contributing to this problem my entire adult life,” he said. “I’m happy to say I’m not doing that anymore.”

Inslee called the treatment plant a “remarkable achievement,” saying he was wondering why the water near his home “looks so clean.”

Victoria’s discharge of raw sewage had been a political irritant between the two jurisdictions including threats of a tourism boycott in the 1990s by groups in Washington state.

The state pledged to support Vancouver’s bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics in exchange for B.C.’s promise to treat Victoria’s sewage.

The ongoing pressure from Washington and local groups kept the sewage issue at the forefront, said Colin Plant, chairman of the Capital Regional District, which represents 13 area municipalities and three regions.

“There’s no doubt the external input that the United States, in particular the state of Washington, had on the federal and provincial governments was influential in making the province and the federal government come forward with regulations we had to meet and adhere to,” he said in an interview.

READ MORE: Greater Victoria wastewater treatment project up and running in Esquimalt

Unique local efforts to clean up sewage treatment in Victoria also helped bring the treatment plant to completion, said James Skwarok, who became known as Mr. Floatie because he appeared at public events dressed in a brown suit that resembled excrement.

“I thought, that’s what we need, we need a seven-foot tall piece of excrement walking around singing, dancing, shaking hands, mingling with the tourists to raise awareness and to put pressure on local officials,” he said.

Skwarok said his costume is now in storage at the Royal B.C. Museum.

Plant said the regional district was mandated by the federal and B.C. governments to implement sewage treatment by Dec. 31, 2020. The plant in Esquimalt was paid for by all three levels of government.

“What it means for our region is we are treating our waste water like every other North American coastal city,” said Plant. ”It was ethically wrong to just dump raw sewage into the ocean.”

Victoria was the last remaining major community to pump raw sewage into surrounding waters, but Canada still has ongoing sewage pollution problems, said Mark Mattson, president of Swim Drink Fish Canada, a national non-profit water protection organization.

“We’ve outgrown the treatment capacity in many cities,” he said, adding that cities in Canada still dump more than 200 billion litres of untreated sewage into the country’s waters annually.

Plant said he has never met Skwarok, but the two school teachers share what it’s like to be a mascot. During Victoria’s Commonwealth Games in 1994, Plant said he worked as the event’s official mascot, dressing as Klee Wyck, a friendly orca known as the “laughing one.”

“If you think about it, I was portraying one of the orcas that may or may not have been living in those waters that were being contaminated by Victoria waste water,” he said.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CRD sewage

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

Just Posted

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

A fire broke out near the Willow Point Bottle Depot early on Jan. 22. Photo courtesy Ashley Laycock
Two injured in early-morning fire in Campbell River

Sailboat fire also attended by Campbell River fire crews

A Vancouver Island teacher has started a petition imploring B.C. Premier John Horgan to close provincial borders to non-essential travel and enforce stricter quarantine measures for travellers. (B.C. government)
Teacher launches petition for B.C. to close provincial border, impose stricter quarantine

Province says what works elsewhere may not work here as they look into legalities of such actions

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Campbell River area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read