BC government raises stink over violations at sewage plant emptying into Cowichan River

The BC Ministry of Environment has issued a “non-compliance advisory letter” for several violations related to a municipal sewage-treatment plant that empties into the Cowichan River, a review by sixmountains.ca of provincial enforcement and compliance files reveals.

The letter dated June 9, 2020, is addressed to the Duncan-North Cowichan Joint Utilities Board sewage-treatment plant, which is located on Cowichan Tribes land and operated by the Municipality of North Cowichan. There is a proposal underway to have the location of the outfall moved outside Cowichan Bay to Satellite Channel. (https://bit.ly/35Iv4xt)

Non-compliance issues cited during the period Jan. 1, 2017, to Apr. 16, 2020 include: 

— Failing to submit quarterly reports as required twice in 2018, four times in 2019, and once in 2020. The facility’s explanation is that it was in the process of upgrading the monitoring database software and hired a new laboratory.

— Exceeding maximum authorized releases of total phosphorus on Sept. 18, 2019. 

— Exceeding allowable chlorine residual limit prior to discharge in December 2018.

— Exceeding maximum fecal coliform limit on Feb. 15, 2017, and not using the method of analysis as required by the facility’s Operational Certificate.

In response, Clay Reitsma, senior manager of engineering for North Cowichan, said that the sewage-treatment plant “has a very good compliance record and that in my many discussions” with the province over the years, the government “has had no concerns regarding the operation of, or the quality of the effluent discharged by, this facility.”

The advisory letter says that the violations and the circumstances will form part of the plant’s compliance history and will be taken into account in the event of future violations. 

The sewage-treatment plant is described as a hybrid secondary/tertiary facility that treats wastewater from North Cowichan, Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Eagle Heights and Cowichan Tribes. It is located near a residential area at the end of Marchmont Road and is a favourite hangout for gulls and waterfowl. For further info: https://bit.ly/2IRsxYZ

— Larry Pynn, Nov. 19, 2020

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