Environmental groups and commercial fishermen today launched a private prosecution against both the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) and the Province of British Columbia over toxic pollution from the Lions Gate sewage treatment plant in West Vancouver.
Doug Chapman, an investigator working with Sierra Legal Defence Fund, laid a charge today against the GVRD and the Province before a Justice of the Peace at the North Vancouver Provincial Court. Sierra Legal represents the Georgia Strait Alliance, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation and the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union – CAW in this matter.
“The GVRD and the Province are permitting toxic sewage from the Lions Gate treatment plant to be pumped into Burrard Inlet, which appears to be a clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act,” said Sierra Legal Staff Lawyer Lara Tessaro. “When our government fails to protect the marine environment, it is left to private prosecutors to enforce environmental law.”
Doug Chapman explained “My investigation revealed that Lions Gate sewage frequently fails scientific tests for fish toxicity used under the Fisheries Act. The GVRD and the Province are aware of this, and have received serious warnings from the federal government, yet continue to permit this pollution.”
Environmental groups and commercial fishermen are demanding immediate upgrades to a minimum of secondary treatment at two GVRD sewage treatment plants. Because they provide only primary treatment, the Lions Gate plant in West Vancouver and the Iona plant in Richmond do little more than remove some sludge and oil before pumping the partially treated sewage into the ocean.
“Primary treatment does not remove many of the chemicals found in sewage, including surfactants, which kill fish, heavy metals and other toxic substances like PAHs and PCBs,” said Christianne Wilhelmson, of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “Secondary treatment at a minimum would remove many of these harmful substances which contaminate the seabed.”
“Burrard Inlet is a diverse marine ecosystem supporting many species of fish, yet the GVRD is polluting these waters with toxic sewage effluent,” said David Lane, Executive Director of T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation. “If the Province is committed to a Green Olympics in 2010, it must stop sanctioning GVRD actions and require immediate upgrades to secondary treatment or better.” In order for this to proceed as a private prosecution, the charge must be confirmed at a later hearing before a Provincial Court Judge. This hearing is expected to occur within the next few weeks.