Seattle newspaper floats idea of Victoria boycott to force sewage plant
WATCH: Victoria is known for its gardens and beauty but the B.C. capital also holds a dirty secret that has led a Seattle newspaper to call for a tourism boycott. Kylie Stanton reports.
The largest newspaper in Washington state is raising a stink over Victoria’s sewage problem.
“Oh Canada, what will it take?” wrote the Seattle Times earlier this week, in an editorial criticizing the capital region’s lack of a sewage-treatment plant.
Approximately 130 million litres of raw sewage is pumped into the Strait of Juan de Fuca every day because the area doesn’t have a plant.
In 1993, the provincial government agreed to build a plant by 2002 after a tourism boycott by Washington state.
But as the Times’ editorial points out, the last 22 years have seen plenty of negotiations, but no ground broken on a plant.
“The failure is an embarrassment for stately Victoria, and it undermines the rigorous work to clean up Puget Sound,” they write.
The Times also suggests resurrecting the boycott if action continues to be stalled.
“If the planning bogs down — again — it is time for Washington to renew a tourism boycott and a return of Mr. Floatie,” the article says, referring to the turd-shaped mascot that graced Victoria’s political scene a decade ago.
“The San Juan Islands, after all, are too close for comfort to those outfall pipes that treat the Puget Sound like a toilet bowl.”
Tourism Victoria CEO Paul Nursey says a boycott threat isn’t overly concerning from an economic viewpoint.
“There are currently about 70 tourism boycotts active around the world right now, and they never work,” he said.
Still, Nursey says a sewage plant is a priority for the city.
“I think the concerns out of Seattle are real, and I think that it’s really important we get the sewage treatment plan done.”
His call was echoed by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
“I’m as concerned as our neighbours in Seattle, I’m as concerned as Victoria residents. This is the 21st century, there’s no excuse. I’m committed to getting this done, and we are committed to getting this done.”
But there is no site for the plant, after the City of Esquimalt refused to rezone an area proposed for it. And the provincial government has declined to force any municipality in the region to host the plant.
That means untold litres of waste will continue to pour into the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the foreseeable future, much to the Times’ chagrin.
“It’s just not okay,” says Jonathan Martin, an editorial writer for the newspaper.
“It’s kind of gross to have Victoria flushing its sewage into our shared waterway.”