UPDATE, June 5, 2009:
Victoria Times-Colonist editorial raises several key questions
about the sewer plans and says the government should not rush into
The Bainbridge Island sewage spill, estimated at 140,000
gallons, was blamed on a break in a 32-year-old pipe buried in the
beach and subject to saltwater corrosion.
Before final repairs, a temporary
band slowed the flow of sewage
Kitsap Sun photo by Tristan Baurick
While Bainbridge Island cleaned up its sewage today, the city of
Victoria — which has been dumping raw sewage into the Strait of
Juan de Fuca for decades — took steps to clean up its mess as well.
Regional officials took action on a plan to build a series of four
sewage-treatment plants at a cost of $1.2 billion. Progress, yes,
but work is still years away. More about that in a moment.
Damage to the environment in and around Bainbridge Island’s
Eagle Harbor is expected to be temporary, according to Larry
Altose, spokesman for the Washington Department of Ecology, who was
quoted in a
Kitsap Sun story by Tristan Baurick.
“As awful as a sewer release sounds, the impact of this size of
spill is short-term,” Altose said, noting that sunlight and other
organisms will quickly kill or eat most of the sewage contaminants
Ecology could fine the city up to $10,000 a day for the spill.
The city’s response and track record with maintenance can be
“We can fine, but that’s not the point,” Altose said. “The point
is to have lessons learned and have the proper steps for
One lesson that everyone has been learning over the past few
years is that sewer lines buried in the beach are trouble. We all
know why they were installed there in the first place — because it
is cheaper to build in the beach than to clear a route through
trees and across ravines in the uplands.
Sewer lines in the beach are a problem that many cities must
face, and they should be inspecting buried pipes on a regular
schedule. We’ll see what Ecology’s investigation turns up with
respect to Bainbridge Island’s maintenance.
Meanwhile, Bremerton and Poulsbo also face issues with worn-out
pipes, and we don’t yet know what the solution will be. Bremerton,
if you recall, has proposed a boardwalk that can support a vacuum
truck to maintain the pipe after it is replaced in the beach
(Water Ways, Sept. 22, 2008). That design is under scrutiny by
the Army Corps of Engineers and other state and federal
As for Victoria, city officials maintained for years that they
should be allowed to discharge raw sewage into the Strait of Juan
de Fuca, because the swift waters dilute the pollution. Three years
ago, the Minister of Environment for British Columbia said that was
no longer acceptable and that treatment systems would be required
for the municipalities of Colwood, Esquimalt, Langford, Oak Bay,
Saanich, Victoria and View Royal, all under the Capital Regional
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