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No day at the beach

Vancouver’s beaches are the envy of the world. We should make sure they’re not covered in literal crap.
Just don’t go in the water

We “oooooh” and “ahhhhhh” at the sight of orcas frolicking in Vancouver harbours, and we should. The videos go viral globally, especially when said whales are cruising through False Creek with a backdrop of our gorgeous cityscape.

We are spoiled. As a lifelong resident, seeing these majestic cetaceans up close never gets old. In 2019, however, there is an (*) on these videos — the orcas are swimming in some seriously sewage contaminated water. It’s crappy.

Canada’s beautiful westcoast metropolitan jewel has a big water quality problem. It’s gross, and we need our elected officials to get cracking on fixing it.

Over the Canada Day long weekend one of our most beloved downtown beaches, Sunset Beach, was closed to swimmers due to E.coli levels four times what is considered safe.


When those numbers were released, and the official “swim at your own risk” status was posted, there was a red-hot Twitter storm calling out Vancouver Parks Board Commissioner John Coupar to “do his job” and fix the problem. Coupar, ever the cool-headed gent, calmly pointed out it is the job of the City, not Park Board, to solve sewage issues.

It’s not news that the City of Vancouver has a very outdated sewage system. Sadly, each summer, this topic sits is the epicentre of our contamination problem. Adding to that outdated system is the rapid growth in Vancouver — sewage volume, coupled with rain runoff, sees us where we are today.

There is a plan to correct this. But unfortunately, the timeline to fix our flawed sewage system is “by 2050.”

Our beaches cannot wait 30 years to halt the river of contamination. We need to get on this crappy situation.

The Middle here is a simple ask: how do we get this issue moved to the top of City Council’s docket? It’s important to look at the bigger environmental picture in our province, beaches making citizens sick should hop up the priority list.

On top of the pipes failing us, there is also the issue of those not properly dealing with their own “crap.” Each year we welcome more and more pleasure crafts, cruise ships, and tankers. It’s naive to assume they all follow guidelines for responsibly dumping sewage.

Even with Vancouver’s free mobile pump-out service for boaters — an earnest effort to have them pump, not dump — still the polluters pollute. Tankers and cruise ships are notorious for breaking these rules. Ask around; it’s rampant.

Difficult to police, enforce, and punish we wonder if there’s a way to force boaters to comply? How can we have people prove that when they are “full” they will “empty” responsibly? It’s akin to the kid in the pool who stops paddling, just for a moment, to relieve themselves. Boaters can be equally stealthy.

Clearly, something must be done.

Tourists might not realize how filthy the water can be, particularly in summer, and assume it’s safe for their kids to wade into. Pink eye, or worse, is all too common after a dip at a local city beach. Recently, False Creek ferry pilots had a sudden, and violent, outbreak of a severe stomach bug after the kids working summer gigs neglected to wash hands prior to eating their lunches.

They got sick simply from pulling ropes soaked in False Creek water.

Clean and green won’t be our reputation for long if we don’t find a fix for this poopy mess. A municipality wanting to own the title of “World’s Greenest City” is failing miserably when it comes to our water.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.