Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“ooh, yuck!”

with 6 comments

I went to Garry Point in Steveston this afternoon. I had just received some new screw on lens attachments I wanted to try out. There were some people swimming but they objected when I pointed my camera at them. So I did not take the shot but walked over to talk to them.

Had they seen the signs? I asked

Sign 1

“No” they said. So I explained that they were two miles downstream of the Lulu Island Sewage works which pumps out human waste which is only “screened” not treated. I said I was surprised to see anyone swimming there, as I certainly wouldn’t, given the very high fecal coliform counts in the area. That was why I was going to take a picture. I had hoped that my new wide angle lens would be able to capture both them and the sign. Sadly it wouldn’t – the angle was wrong. But I had not taken a picture of them and I was sorry if I had spoiled their day.

Then I looked behind them, where we were standing talking. They hadn’t seen this sign either.

sign 2

As I walked back to the concession stand a mother and her children came into step with me. She had heard what I had said. She thought the signs warned about the current. So I explained why it concerns me to see people swimming around in diluted but untreated human waste. She thought that if it had said “human waste” on the sign people might have taken more notice.

Her little boy asked me if I meant that they had been swimming in pooh, and I said “Yes”

His reply is the headline

Written by Stephen Rees

July 25, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Environment, sewage

6 Responses

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  1. The first sign is pretty meaningless, but the second sign is much more effective.


    July 25, 2007 at 6:35 pm

  2. Agreed. “not advisable” is still permissive.
    I think blunter “to the point” signs work better – i.e. Nearby sewage outfall …
    You have to plan for the lowest common denominator….


    July 25, 2007 at 10:08 pm

  3. I’m glad you pointed the signs out to these folks. However, I want to note that for me, Garry Point is one of the joys of the Lower Mainland. A great place for walking, for flying a kite (superb!), for watching the Fraser estuary traffic, and for enjoying Pajos. It can take a couple of hours to get to on the bus for me, but it is always worth it.

    Jak King

    July 26, 2007 at 10:45 am

  4. It is also one of my favourite places as my photos on flickr testify. I just stood there amazed that people were swimming – and if the ladies in question had not treated me as though I was some kind of pervert for carrying a camera, I doubt I would have spoken to them. It certainly made me very uncomfortable, especially when they apologized to me! I wish we were a lot cleaner in BC. Dumping raw sewage seems to me to be uncivilized, and dates back to the days when we thought that the solution to pollution is dilution. We now know better. Mainly this is about – do people even notice the sign is there – and is it worded strongly enough?

    Stephen Rees

    July 26, 2007 at 11:05 am

  5. It’s pretty ridiculous how few people know that raw, untreated sewage gets dumped directly into our rivers. You’re right, it’s not something that we associate with either modern civilization or developed countries, so I think most people don’t believe that it could possibly be that bad….except it is. I know you’re in BC, but if there are any other American readers out there (and even Canadians can check it out!), you should definitely take a look at American Rivers’ new campaign featuring Flushie the talking toilet: They’re trying to raise awareness about this issue and get people to tell Congress how they feel about sewage pollution.


    July 31, 2007 at 10:14 am

  6. It has been an issue in Canada for many years. There has been a similar campaign in Victoria featuring “Mr Floatie” who raised local awareness enough to get the federal government involved. Similarly Halifax, Nova Scotia dumps untreated sewage into its harbour, as does St John’s Newfoundland and both are fishing communities. Halifax is famous for its lobsters – but it is human waste that is providing the basis for that feed chain! And here we no longer eat raw oysters caught locally – and restaurants that want to avoid poisoning their clients have stopped serving them uncooked.

    Stephen Rees

    July 31, 2007 at 11:00 am

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