"Allowing raw sewage to flow into False Creek is no longer acceptable," said COPE Cllr David Cadman. "We need to make it a priority to clean up False creek by replacing the antiquated combined sewer outfalls that currently pump raw sewage and other pollutants into a popular recreational waterway."
Last week, hazardous levels of sewage-related coliform bacteria in False Creek Water forced health authorities to warn kayakers, dragon boaters any one who uses the popular waterway to avoid contact with the contaminated water.
A rupture in a nearby sewer pipe was responsible for the latest spill. But raw sewage will continue to find its way into False Creek until the combined sewers are upgraded – and that is not scheduled to be finished before 2050.
"Right now there are five combined storm sewer outfalls in False Creek that pump raw sewage every time there is a heavy rainfall in Vancouver," said Cadman. "That may have been good enough in 1907 when the system was built, but now thousands of people live around the Creek, the Olympic village is going up on the southeast shore, and there are plans for a centre for kayaking and other non-motorized craft in the east basin – the most polluted part of the Creek."
Pollution in False Creek is not new, nor is the debate about how to handle it. Since the late 1970s, local residents have been concerned about high coliform counts and even conducted their own sampling tests. In the 1999 civic election, then NPA Mayor Philip Owen assured voters that the combined sewer outfalls would be replaced.
Up until the late 1970s, False Creek was an industrial basin that was so polluted, city councillors of the day seriously considered filling it in. Thankfully that wasn’t done and with the completion of the seawall in 1974, most industrial contaminants stopped seeping into the Creek. Coliform and sewage, however, remains a problem particularly in the warmer months when large numbers of boaters and kayakers use False Creek.
According to the city’s sewage replacement program, approximately one percent of Vancouver’s century old sewage system is upgraded every year. Upgrading the entire system is anticipated to be completed by 2050 – four decades after the 2010 Olympics.