News / Vancouver

Boaters pump out 20K litres of sewage using free False Creek service in summer 2017

Vancouver city staff say a new mobile pump-out service was popular with boaters in False Creek

Burrard Civic Marina is one of several marinas in False Creek.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

Burrard Civic Marina is one of several marinas in False Creek.

Vancouver's new mobile pump-out service collected 20,000 litres of raw sewage from boaters in False Creek over the course of 37 days last summer, according to a staff report.

The city introduced the $75,000 pilot program, available six hours a day, four days a week, from August until October 2017 as part of its efforts to make False Creek swimmable by this year.

Boaters used the free service 167 times in total, pumping out more than 500 litres of sewage a day, according to a report that city staff will present to council Wednesday. Staff are recommending that council bring the mobile pump-out service back this summer.

Staff have previously identified waste from boaters – those who release sewage directly into False Creek – as a major contributer of poor water quality, but some environmental groups and boaters say the city's sewage system is the bigger culprit.

In a survey, staff also found that 100 per cent of users liked the service and wanted the city to continue the program this summer.

Council has already approved a bylaw amendment that would require all marinas to have pump-out stations.

But a few marina operators said the city should instead focus its efforts on preventing sewage from flowing into False Creek through city pipes, according to the report.

Staff have previously confirmed with Metro that there are four pipes that flow into False Creek that are still part of the combined sewer system, where both storm drain and sewage pipes feed into it. These combined pipes carry raw sewage when a combined sewage overflow (CSO) event occurs, usually when there is a lot of rain.

To prevent that from happening, the city is scheduled to finish separating the storm drain and sewage systems by 2050. City staff have said the four pipes that flow into False Creek will likely be separated sooner, in 10 to 15 years.

Staff are scheduled to conduct a $200,000 hydraulic study in False Creek sometime this year and present a report to council by the fall. Staff are also looking at the feasibility of setting up a floating swimming pool in the southeast part of False Creek.

Vancouver Coastal Health does not recommend people swim in False Creek and E. coli levels in the east basin often exceed levels that Health Canada deem safe for swimming, according to the local health authority's records.

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