Plan on track to stop Victoria's pumping of sewage into Strait of Juan de Fuca

OLYMPIA -- A wastewater treatment plant under construction in Victoria, B.C., will have a big impact on the Puget Sound, state Department of Ecology officials say.

A $765 million treatment plant slated for McLoughlin Point  in Victoria is expected to be finished by 2020. Started in 2017, the plant will be the first  treatment plant for the greater Victoria area, which has a population of nearly 400,000.

Finally securing a treatment plan for a population of that size is a huge win, said Heather Bartlett, the Department of Ecology's Water Quality Programs Manger.

"It's an excellent step in the right direction for Victoria, B.C.," Bartlett said.

The push to get Victoria a wastewater treatment plant has been in the works for more than two decades, Bartlett said, and was advocated by Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) and others on this side of the border.

Victoria dumps millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca each day, much of it containing high levels of amonia, fecal coliform bacteria, metals and other toxins.

"This was going out essentially with no treatment,"Bartlett said of the wastewater.

For decades, the dumping chronically impacted the health of the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Pollution build-up could be effecting everything from the endangered Southern Resident killer whale to mussels and the shellfish industry.

"The pollutants from the toxic and the metals stay," Bartlett said of how it impacted marine life. "They stay on the fatty tissues."

Washington started mandating all wastewater be treated before going into the Puget Sound about three decades ago, Bartlett said. The more uniform approach to treatment on both sides of the border makes it easier to monitor pollution and safety concern - especially as both countries impact the waterways so much.

"There's a pretty good exchange of water between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound," Bartlett said. "This is altogether better for the Salish Sea and the Puget Sound."