Opposing Effluent Discharge to Okanagan Lake.


The city of Vernon is deciding whether or not to dump sewage effluent into Okanagan Lake.


In the 1980's, Vernon installed an sewage outfall pipe in Okanagan Lake despite strong opposition from some residents and environmental groups. The group “Save Our Lakes” went to court, was supported by the Environmental Law Association and the outcome was that Vernon could only use the pipe if they could prove there was no alternative. It has been used once.

Sewage effluent are currently being pumped 7km to the MacKay Reservoir on Commonage Road and used as irrigation water on approximately 970 Ha (2400 acres) of land in the Commonage area (including Predator Ridge Golf Resort, Vernon Golf & Country Club, The Rise Golf Course, Vernon Seed Orchard, Kalamalka Forestry Centre, Marshall fields and Pacific Regeneration's Vernon Nursery as well as large areas of agricultural land used for grazing and hay production).

As Vernon grows and uses more water, there isn't enough land to accommodate all the wastewater. As well many don't want sewage treated water sprayed on fields and possibly reaching aquifers. The company hired by Vernon to advise them is Urban Systems, a conservative engineering firm that shown no real interest in ecological technologies such as Eco Sanitation.

As the representative for SENS, I attended all meetings and wrote about the outcomes of each meeting and about the alternatives that exist. I have also written Vernon Council and believe many on council seem to understand which is why councillor Patrick Nicol was quoted in Vernon Morning Star as saying: “I can’t believe there hasn’t been a public outrage to these comments ” the comments being that effluent would be dumped into the lake.

The Problems:

Even treated sewage contains dangerous substances: such as pharmaceuticals (the mix of drugs creates entirely new compounds), endocrine disruptors that feminize male fish and amphibians (coming from personal care products, etc...) viruses (from hospital wastes).

Untreated sewage could also enter the lake since storms, breaks, leakages, can disrupt the treatment system.

Lake Okanagan keeps its water for 90 years or so. Once sewage starts going into it, all its biodiversity will be negatively affected.

Swimming in water that contains EDCs, pharmaceuticals etc... is dangerous since these substances enter the body very efficiently through skin.

The Solutions:

Instead of merging all sewage together and then trying to separate it and clean it up (the cleaner the treated solids and liquids, the more toxic the remainder for pollution never disappears, on the contrary, mixing compounds generates more toxins), clean and re-use it at source using stand alone system.

REDUCE AND RE-USE: Reduce sewage effluent input by installing stand alone Eco-Sanitation systems that treat and re-use the water in all Vernon's industries (ex: Okanagan Springs uses enormous amounts of water daily) as well as in all new developments, particularly those that are far from the city core.

Stop using water to carry wastes and aim to reclaim and re-use all “wastes” so they become “resources” instead. Start by creating model installations in public places such as the science centre and the Xerindipity garden, using modern composting toilets such as the Clivus Multrum and grey water recycling systems.

Suggested Actions:

      Quick and easy: 

  1. Email Vernon council to let them know you are opposed to having treated sewage effluent discharged to the lake because you understand the negative impacts even fully treated effluent have on aquatic life.

  2. Facebook and ask parents and friends to do the same. This issue is urgent and important. Once decided, it will not be possible to turn back without enormous money and trouble.

Mayor <mayor@vernon.ca>

Mary Joe O'Keefe <mokeefe@vernon.ca>

Patrick Nicol <pnicol@vernon.ca>

Juliette Cunningham <jcunningham@vernon.ca>


Bob Spiers <bspiers@vernon.ca>


      More involved:

  1. Prepare a 5 minute verbal presentation and email Vernon asking them to appear as a delegation. Your presentation should make it very clear that:

  • you do not want to see any sewage effluent discharged into the lake
  • you know there are solutions and you count on elected officials to look for solutions that are proven and innovative
  • it is no longer acceptable to use water to carry wastes, particularly when living in one of the driest valleys in Canada
  • given projected climate change events such as frequent fires and storms that can severely impact sewage systems, building more old treatment systems is not acceptable
  • you might include part of the Youtube videos on the Living Machine installed at Bear River Nova Scotia and the one on Clivus Multrum

2) If you have time, give the same presentation to the RDNO board (regional district) that includes all the mayors of the region.

Note: appearing as a delegation is likely to be in the media, perhaps swaying many others to do the same.

OpposingLakeDischarge.doc31 KB