Inlet group wants sewage dumping stopped

A federal exemption is allowing the dumping of raw human sewage to take place in Saanich Inlet

Ian Cameron of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society.

A federal exemption is allowing the dumping of raw human sewage to take place in Saanich Inlet and a local protection group wants that revoked.

Ian Cameron of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society (SIPS) says they have launched an online petition and enlisted the help of federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May to have the government remove the inlet from the dumping exemption. Cameron said most inlets on B.C.’s coast do not allow the dumping of sewage from pleasure crafts within three nautical miles of shore. For narrow inlets, he said that means most are off limits to dumping. The exemptions, he explained, were put in place for more north coast bodies of water where their length makes it impractical to ban dumping.

“These (exemptions) were brought in last year,” Cameron said. “The Saanich Inlet was included in that but it’s not a good idea, as the inlet is not a good place for self-flushing.”

A 1996 provincial environment ministry report states Saanich Inlet has sluggish water circulation at best, due to a sill at its mouth that prevents strong currents during the tides. It also states human activity around the inlet had caused excessive amounts of fecal contamination.

This inability of the inlet to assimilate contaminants led to 12 of 15 shellfish beds to be closed at that time to harvesting. The report called the Saanich Inlet “a threatened but still largely viable ecological system.”

Cameron said SIPS has been calling various government officials to find out why the exemption was placed in the Saanich Inlet. He said to date no one has been able to give them an answer.

“Somewhere, someone said it would be a good idea.”

He added he didn’t get a sense that any lobbying for this exemption was even done, noting the boating community in the inlet is well-connected and there’s no indication a push was made from there.

Cameron added there are around 100 pleasure craft in the inlet, some of which have sewage tanks. SIPS has operated a mobile pumping station, the Humpty Pumpty, for years but he said due to its age and condition, this summer will be its last.

Around the inlet, he added, there are sewage pump stations at the Brentwood Bay Resort and Angler’s Anchorage offering options for liveaboards and other vessels.

The petition to have the exemption removed can be found at www.peninsulastreams.ca. Cameron said it is hoipes May will be able to deliver the petition to the House of Commons in the fall.