LWMP Report #1 - September 2010
Information regarding Vernon's "Liquid Waste Management Plan" (LWMP)
According to the city of Vernon, Vernon's waste management system presents lingering concerns with the collection system, the treatment system, the disposition of the treated liquid effluent and the composting operation of the biosolids. All details of these concerns can be found in this Background Report
In order to address these concerns, Vernon has established a committee to update the LWMP, that is made up of:
* Members of a Local Advisory Committee (LAC)
* Members of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)
* Members of a project team and the city of Vernon.
Members of the general public are welcome to attend meetings. All meeting dates will be posted here. For more info see Vernon's LWMP Newsletter.
The city says it is committed to updating the LWMP according to a triple bottom line so that the plan can 1) protect the environment 2) benefit the community and 3) be financially sustainable in the long term. The mandate of the LWMP is to do better. It is not always possible to 'do it all' in one step but SENS offers kudo's to the City of Vernon for doing a whole lot better than other communities in the Shuswap-Okanagan. Our spray irrigation program may not be perfect but it is light years ahead of just discharging less well treated sewage directly into a lake or stream as some other communities do.
SENS has been invited to be on the Local Advisory Committee and will update this information every time anything worthy of notice occurs. See more information on Vernon's website: http://www.vernon.ca/services/operations/liquid_waste.html
The first and only meeting of the whole committee occurred on June 1st, 2010. Since we were told to expect 4 to 6 similar meetings in the next 18 months, SENS will highlight its concerns and the advice it intends to give the committee on this website. We invite you to please contact us with input and feedback by emailing us and copying the city of Vernon at vernonLWMP@urban-systems.com
SENS' CONCERNS AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS:
1) SENS is concerned about Sewage Content:
Modern sewage is different from sewage of long ago yet MoE (Ministry of Environment) is still not addressing the serious proven problems associated with modern sewage, which are that they contain “gender benders” or Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDC), as well as numerous varied pharmaceuticals. Worse still, the mixture of chemicals found in sewage results in the formation of entirely new compounds whose effects cannot be tested for since we cannot predict what they will be.
Even the most modern sewage treatment systems do not remove these dangerous substances. How safe are aquatic animals and humans (specifically foetuses and young children) who bathe in, and drink treated water that still retains a proliferation of drugs? See: a Canadian Press article and http://www.toxicnation.ca/node/200
2) SENS is concerned about Sewage Disposal:
MoE confirms that Vernon's sewage treatment system results in treated effluent that is of high enough quality to be discharged to lake if Vernon decided to do so. Since the biosolids are used to produce Ogogrow one presumes its quality is comparable.
However MoE is only looking at bacteria and not testing at all for EDC or drugs and certainly not for the unknown compounds that result from the mixture of chemicals found in modern sewage. Treatment of sewage results in either sludge or in liquid treated effluent, both of which contain EDCs and pharmaceuticals.
At the moment the effluent are used to irrigate. Although irrigation is preferable to discharge to water because it offers added filtration, some of the effluent reaches aquifers as well as other bodies of water. These compounds do not disappear but affect everything in their environment.
3) SENS is concerned about LWMP Committee Problems:
Another problem is that all of us, including committee members, have grown up with the concept of using potable water to "flush it all away" so that it's treated elsewhere, 'out of sight, out of mind' . The current sewage technology is extremely expensive and quite complex so it is difficult to imagine seeking a change to the current system that would improve our health and our environment.
The changes SENS believes we need require us to look outside the box.
4) Vernon's Opportunity:
This is Vernon's opportunity to be a leader in North America's sanitation technology. As long as grey water (from sinks, laundry and showers) and black water (from toilets) both get mixed with hospital and industrial wastes, we can expect the resulting sewage to be a dangerous mix containing carcinogens, pathogens, viruses, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and EDCs.
Once mixed together, nothing can separate the compounds again in order to remove the dangerous ones. Most either remain in the sludge or in the effluent.
The following solutions are already in use elsewhere. The 3 Rs are:
1. Can be done by significantly reducing the amount of water used to carry wastes. Sustainable sanitation technology is being used all over the world. For more info, google sustainable toilet and sustainable sanitation.
2. Use conservation-oriented water pricing combined with information.
3. Make grey water safer by recommending products that do not contain EDCs.
1. Grey water can be reused efficiently if it does not contain dangerous compounds. This is best done by having grey water treatment systems that are local rather than huge. The technology exists to install community or home grey water recycling systems. By using sustainable cleaning products, these systems can reuse water from showers for laundry, then for irrigation, or discharg it to a community treatment system that irrigates with it.
1. Black water would not exist in large quantities if we were to shift to sustainable sanitation because no potable water would be used to flush solids away. Biosolids (excrement) would be generated but a local or community-based solution is suggested. When a household or community knows that the inputs do not contain dangerous chemicals, the result can be that resources are produced instead of wastes, as is now done with Ogogrow.
If the resulting product does contain dangerous substances, it can be incinerated so that the remaining ashes can be disposed of as toxic wastes rather than mixed in our water.