Problems with sewage in Burnaby and Coquitlam are getting some recognition in Canada’s seat of power.
The federal Conservatives are seeking an amendment to the federal Fisheries Act that would define raw sewage as a material that cannot be dumped into a waterway.
Port Moody-Coquitlam Conservative MP Nelly Shin is adding her support to a private members’ bill initiated by Andrew Scheer, MP for Regina-Qu’Appelle and the party’s former leader.
During second reading of the bill, Shin pointed out that Bill C-269 legislation would ban the dumping of raw sewage into Canadian waterways, noting that Fisheries Act does not define raw sewage.
Bill C-269 amends section 36 of the Fisheries Act by adding, “No person shall deposit or permit the deposit of raw sewage in water frequented by fish.”
Shin’s support for the bill follows a series of Tri-City News articles raising the issue of raw sewage spewing onto the streets in Coquitlam and overflowing into Stoney Creek, a spawning ground for coho and chum salmon as well as home to the endangered Nooksack Dace.
Shin stated in a press release that she was “troubled” to learn sewage overflow coming from her riding in Coquitlam is contaminating the aqua ecosystem in the riding of Burnaby North-Seymour in Stoney Creek.
“Upon discovery, I officially offered my assistance to the mayors of Coquitlam and Port Moody to seek federal infrastructure funding for their sewer systems when they seek upgrades,” she stated.
"Stoney Creek is the environmental lifeline for countless wildlife as well as an urban oasis,” Shin said in her speech in the House of Commons on June 16. "Countless hours and decades of work by stream keepers from the Stoney Creek Environmental Committee, as well as local residents, has resulted in the return of salmon to Stoney Creek."
According to Tri-City News’ articles, residents of Oakdale Park in Coquitlam neighbourhood were shocked to see a manhole cover burst from torrential rains in early 2020, spilling toilet paper and fecal matter onto city streets.
The sewage then ran downhill toward the nearby storm drains that empty into Stoney Creek.
According to the city of Coquitlam, the system is properly designed and maintained but can be overwhelmed during extreme weather events.
Rainwater seeping into the sanitary sewer system from private rainwater leaders and sump pumps can overload sewers with diluted sewage, the Tri-City News reported. Overflows near Stoney Creek have prompted Metro Vancouver to include expanding the nearby Stoney Creek trunk sewer system as part of its proposed 2022-2026 Capital Plan, with modelling currently underway to identify bottlenecks.
However, there are larger concerns in that the spills are part of a region-wide problem of untreated sewage entering regional water bodies through aging infrastructure.
Shin said fixing the problem requires federal infrastructure funding.
However, a New Westminster councillor expressed outrage at what he called a 'cynical' move by the Conservatives. Patrick Johnstone said in a letter that the changes wouldn't have done anything improve the act, which he claimed was damaged by the former Conservative government of Stephen Harper, and wouldn't assist local governments in dealing with the issue.
Update: This bill was defeated on June 23.