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New actions support the City's goal to protect Vancouver's waterways

May 2 2017

Today, in support of the City's goal to protect Vancouver's waterways and the environment, Council approved new actions to strengthen the protection and reduce contamination in Vancouver's surrounding waters.

Water quality assessed by False Creek Water Quality Working Group (FCWQWG)

Ongoing work on water quality in False Creek, and information gathered and assessed by the False Creek Water Quality Working Group (FCWQWG), suggests that a primary contributor to E. coli contamination in False Creek is from the discharge of untreated sewage waste from marinas, and recreational vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure crafts.

The FCWQWG is a multi-agency group comprised of representatives from Environmental Protection, Engineering, Park Board, Vancouver Coastal Health, Metro Vancouver, Transport Canada, Port of Vancouver, and BC Ministry of Environment.

What the City proposes to improve surrounding water quality

To address the dumping of sewage into our recreational waters, and improve the quality of Vancouver's surrounding water, the City has proposed to:

  • Amend by-laws to strengthen requirements of marina operators and boaters to properly manage their waste.
  • Consult with the boating community about potential updates to the VBBL that would require marinas to provide easily accessible pump-out facilities.
  • Pilot a City-funded mobile sewage pump-out service to increase accessibility of pump-out services.
  • Acquire a service provider to conduct boat audits to identify boats improperly disposing of sewage waste.
  • Enhance enforcement for boats improperly discharging of sewage waste with measures that escalate from education and warning by the VPD Marine Unit and City's Environmental Protection Officers to prosecutions.
  • Updates to the Health by-law to reinstate previous requirements related to water quality protection requirements for the management of sewage, oil discharge, and garbage management.

Amendments to encourage proper sewer management and decreased sewage dumping

Boat sewage is a source of fecal bacteria in False Creek that harms the environment and puts public health at risk. It is illegal to dump sewage from boats within three nautical miles of the shore, yet during the summer, E.coli levels often exceed standards for recreation use in False Creek.

The proposed amendments and activities aim to encourage proper sewage management and decrease sewage dumping to improve the overall environmental health of our waters such as False Creek and their users/occupants.

We recognize that we have a housing crisis and that liveaboards play a role in housing people.

The proposed actions are intended to facilitate proper sewage management from boats and are not intended to prevent or make it more difficult for residents to live on their boats.

The City will further consult with marina and boat operators about water quality and will launch a campaign this summer to inform boaters on new and existing regulations and enforcement measures.

Clean Water and Access to Nature - Vancouver's Greenest City Action Plan

In the summer of 2015, Vancouver Park Board launched the "pump, don't dump" campaign, and provided free pump-outs to all boaters to bring awareness to illegal sewage dumping and to improve use of pump-out facilities.

Clean Water and Access to Nature are key components of Vancouver's Greenest City Action Plan, and steps to improve the quality of waters like False Creek have been ongoing.

In 2015, the City assessed and improved sewer infrastructure leading to False Creek East to reduce the risk of sewer overflows; the City also created the FCWQWG to assess short and long-term issues, and opportunities to improve False Creek water quality.

Learn more about boating in the City  See the Council report