At long last, cities on the south end of Vancouver Island are floating into the 20th century.
A couple hundred yards from the route of the ferry connecting Victoria, B.C., to Port Angeles, workers are busily constructing a long-overdue sewage treatment plant, the Victoria region’s first. Tangible progress on this project is an exciting development, as is the expectation the plant will come online in fall 2020.
Metropolitan Victoria has piped its untreated sewage into the Salish Sea since 1894, an appalling fact that triggered extensive international debate. It is an immense relief to find Washington’s northern neighbors closing in on the date that they’ll stop fouling the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One year after Washington state declared Puget Sound a no-discharge zone for all boat sewage, visible evidence of progress on the treatment plant is a cause for celebration.
When finished, the nearly $800 million project will finally end an argument that never should have taken place. Canadians wasted too many years grousing over the cost and proposed locations for the sewage plant, pumping sewage into our shared waters all the while.
The cost of keeping the Salish Sea sewage-free is borne by communities throughout the region. After the disastrous 2017 failure of the West Point Treatment Plant, King County paid $361,000 to state regulators and spent still more on repairs and improvements. Seattle Public Utilities is spending close to $600 million on a new sewage and stormwater tunnel meant to keep wastewater spills out of the Ship Canal.
This is not an optional situation. Every community in our corner of Earth has a responsibility to respect and protect the coast and the Salish Sea, which gives us recreation, transportation, food and commerce. It is lamentable that it took this long for Victoria-area residents to step up and do their part.
The repulsive “Mr. Floatie” mascot is in retirement, and the long-simmering government feud about when the Canadians will stop dragging feet and start treating their refuse is in Washington’s rearview mirror.
The Salish Sea is our regional treasure and requires attentive care. At a time when the plight of orcas and salmon has become dire, every measure that improves this resource must be implemented as soon as possible. The plant’s 2020 completion date can’t come quickly enough.