June 27, 2017
VANCOUVER – Fraser Riverkeeper has launched a campaign demanding for real-time reporting and public transparency on raw sewage discharges into Vancouver’s waterways. The launch of the Swimmable Vancouver campaign coincides with the release of Swim Drink Fish Canada’s Canada Beach Report, the first-ever comparative study of Canadian recreational water quality.
The report finds that with few exceptions, provinces and territories do not notify the public in the event of a sewage bypass that could increase contamination of recreational waters.
It also reveals that most provinces and territories do not issue rain advisories to recreational water users to ensure that they avoid contact with contaminated water.
According to Swim Guide, a free water quality app provided by Swim Drink Fish Canada, recreationalists should stay out of urban waters for at least 48 hours following a heavy rainfall event. This is because rainwater picks up oil, heavy metals, fertilizers, litter and other pollutants as it flows through our streets and into the storm drains.
In Vancouver, many of these storm drains are connected to sewer systems. During heavy rainfalls, the raw sewage and pollutants overwhelm barriers intended to direct contaminated water into waste water treatment plants. Instead, the toxic water overflows into the Burrard Inlet and Fraser River, untreated.
In 2014, Metro Vancouver pled guilty to a violation of Section 36 of the Fisheries Act due to a release of untreated sewage into the Burrard Inlet at Brockton Point.
“We’re thrilled that the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Parks Board are taking action to improve water quality and restore fish habitat”, said Lauren Hornor, Fraser Riverkeeper’s Executive Director.
“However, as we work collectively to clean up our waters, the public needs to know when a sewage overflow or bypass has occurred in real time -- not in a yearly report that won’t be released for months.”
Riverkeeper’s Swimmable Vancouver campaign urges Mayor Gregor Robertson to work with City engineers to provide real-time reporting on sewage discharges and bypasses into the Burrard Inlet -- including False Creek -- and the Fraser River.
In May of this year, the City of Kingston and Utilities Kingston launched the first real-time sewage overflow tracking system in Canada. The City of Toronto is now also issuing sewage bypass alerts.
To show your support of the Swimmable Vancouver campaign, Fraser Riverkeeper encourages the public to send a letter via our Swimmable Vancouver campaign page. By the end of the summer, the organization hopes to have 10,000 letters sent to decision makers.
For more information on the Canada Beach Report, please contact Swim Guide Manager Gabrielle Parent-Doliner: [email protected]