NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar calls on the City to complete its combined sewer separation program within 10 years

“Discharges of untreated sewage into the city’s waterways is happening far too often. The City’s 30-year timeline to finish separating sewer water from storm water is too far in the future. We need to get on with fixing this problem now. If JFK could commit to putting a man on the moon in 10 years, and then successfully achieve that goal, surely Vancouver should be able to stop sewage discharge into our local waters and end beach closures by 2029 not 2050.” – NPA Park Board Commissioner John Coupar

July 8, 2019, Vancouver, B.C. – NPA Vancouver Park Board Commissioner John Coupar is calling on the City of Vancouver to accelerate its combined sewer separation program in response to the recent closure of Sunset Beach. The beach was closed to swimming on June 29th on the advice of Vancouver Coastal Health due to high E.coli levels. Coupar wants the City to commit to separating its remaining combined sewers within 10 years – by 2029 – to put an end to E.coli contamination of Vancouver’s waterways and public swimming beaches.

“Discharges of untreated sewage into the city’s waterways is happening far too often. The City’s 30-year timeline to finish separating sewer water from storm water is too far in the future. We need to get on with fixing this problem now,” said Coupar. “If JFK could commit to putting a man on the moon in 10 years, and then successfully achieve that goal, surely Vancouver should be able to stop sewage discharge into our local waters and end beach closures by 2029 not 2050.”

The City’s current 30-year timeline for completing its sewer separation plan, which would eventually put an end to untreated sewage overflows entering the city’s waterways, is based on the Provincial government’s mandate for combined sewer systems in the province to be separated by 2050.

In his motion, Coupar will be asking his fellow Commissioners to encourage the City of Vancouver to commit to a 10-year timeline and to encourage City Council to write to all relevant levels of government, including municipal, regional, provincial, and federal, urging them to support the plan. The motion also encourages the City of Vancouver to seek funding opportunities and partnerships whereby a new target date of 2029 could be achieved.

Coupar notes that, in early June, the Park Board approved a Non-motorized Watercraft Recreation Strategy to increase shoreline access to the city’s waterways and encourage more people to explore non-motorized water sports, including canoeing, kite surfing, rowing, dragon boating, outrigging, windsurfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and small craft sailing.

Starting in the 1920s, Vancouver’s Park Board Commissioners made it a priority to incrementally acquire beachfront property that had earlier been snapped-up for hotel and private residential development. By the mid-1980s the Board had acquired full waterfront access along English Bay from the Burrard Bridge to Stanley Park and all of the waterfront from Spanish Banks to Jericho Beach.

Coupar’s motion also calls for the City of Vancouver to publicly identify the locations of all sewer outflows into False Creek and other Vancouver waterways that impact on Vancouver parks and beaches, and calls on the City to post public signage to indicate where these sewage and storm water outflows are located.

The full text of Commissioner Coupar’s motion is appended below.

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MOTION: Calling for an Accelerated 10-year Timeline and Plan for Combined Sewer Separation in the City of Vancouver

MOVER: Commissioner Coupar
SECONDER:


WHEREAS

1. The mission of the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is to provide, preserve, and advocate for parks and recreation services to benefit all people, communities, and the environment;

2. As per the Vancouver Charter, the Park Board has exclusive jurisdiction and control over parkland in the City of Vancouver, including any structures, programs and activities, fees, and improvements that occur within parks, including jurisdiction over the city’s public swimming beaches and responsibility for safe swimming;

3. Starting in the 1920s, Park Board Commissioners made it a priority to incrementally acquire beachfront property that was earlier snapped-up for hotel and private residential development, and by the mid-1980s the Board had acquired full waterfront access along English Bay from the Burrard Bridge to Stanley Park and all the waterfront from Spanish Banks to Jericho Beach;

4. On June 10, 2019, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation approved a Non-motorized Watercraft Recreation Strategy to encourage more people to explore non-motorized water sports, including canoeing, kite surfing, rowing, dragon boating, outrigging, windsurfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, and small craft sailing, as well as to increase access to the water from the shoreline;

5. On June 29, 2019, Sunset Beach was closed to swimming due to high E.coli levels on the recommendation of Vancouver Coastal Health;

6. The City of Vancouver frequently discharges untreated waste into the city’s waterways through combined sewer overflow outlets, including into False Creek which has five overflow outlets, many of which are visible during low tides;

7. According to recent reports, almost 674,000 cubic metres of raw sewage and runoff drained into False Creek at just one of these combined sewer overflow points in 2017;

8. The timeline for completion of the City’s combined sewer separation plan, to stop untreated sewage overflows entering the city’s waterways, is currently based on the Provincial government’s environmental goal to replace all combined sewer systems with separated sewer systems by 2050;

9. The City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan embodies the City’s aspirations to be on the leading edge of urban sustainability through a set of measurable and attainable targets that place Vancouver on a path to becoming the greenest city in the world;

10. Metro Vancouver’s regional population growth estimates to the year 2050, based on a base population of 2,570,000 in 2016, is anticipated to increase by about 1 million to 3,600,000 by the year 2050, with a corresponding increase in the population of the City of Vancouver and similarly increased discharges of raw sewage into the city’s waterways;

11. Vancouver’s waterfront is a treasured asset and a key part of our city’s identity locally and internationally – from the seawall to the city’s beautiful beaches.


THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation call on the City of Vancouver to accelerate its timeline for combined sewer separation and set a goal to complete all combined sewer separation projects within 10 years – by the year 2029 – in order to stop untreated sewage overflows entering the city’s waterways; and

FURTHER THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation encourage the City of Vancouver to write to all relevant levels of government, including municipal, regional, provincial, and federal, urging these government bodies to support an accelerated 10-year timeline and plan for combined sewer separation in the City of Vancouver and to seek funding opportunities and partnerships to achieve this objective; and

FURTHER THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation formally request that the City of Vancouver – in the interest of public safety and awareness – publicly identify the locations of all sewer outflows into False Creek and other Vancouver waterways that impact on Vancouver parks and beaches, and that the City be requested to post public signage to indicate these outflow locations; and 

FURTHER THAT the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation authorize the Chair of the Park Board to convey in writing to Vancouver City Council and the City’s relevant senior staff the above-noted resolutions, requests, and encouragements, including a copy of this motion.


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