This topic is under the radar which is probably why most people are not more indignant that in a city that prides itself on being green, sustainable, bikeable and smart we have a very very dirty secret~we don’t separate out our liquid garbage.
Think of it~we separate green waste from garbage, we compost what we can, and we are all educated on what to put in the blue recycling box. But few people know what the implications of a combined storm and sanitary sewer are to the environment. It just sounds like something that is mundane and boringly municipal. But what it really means is that when a combined sewer overflows, it is spilling untreated excrement into Vancouver’s surrounding water sources.
When I worked as the health planner for Dr. John Blatherwick the City’s Medical Health Officer, the separation of the combined sewer system was the first thing to be further delayed in any civic budget process. Back in the 1980’s it was assumed that the entire city would be under a separated sewer program by 2020. But in checking on the city’s website that goal has been pushed back thirty years with “We are working toward the Province of BC’s environmental goal to eliminate sewage overflows by 2050″.
When beaches are closed due to high coliform counts there is a public level of indignation that we need to do something to stop that. And there is-by finishing up the installation of a separated storm and wastewater sewage system that keeps getting delayed for other priorities.
While some of the city has separated storm and wastewater sewers, the parts that don’t have catchment water and liquid waste travel to the sewage treatment plant in one sewer. If there is a big rain event, stormwater can overwhelm that single pipe system, which means that untreated excrement overflows into water sources like False Creek.Read more »