Re: Current outbreak of flu potentially linked to leaky force mains in estuary

News Reports in the Vancouver Island media suggest a serious stomach flu this winter caused by the norovirus has been linked to eating raw or poorly cooked oysters. Oysters are one of the hardest working animals in the ocean. An adult oyster is capable of filtering 25-50 gallons of water a day which could concentrate the virus particles.

TV reports suggest that seniors have been hit especially hard with these symptoms this year. On its website, the Public Health Agency of Canada suggests that raw sewage is one of the sources of the spread of the virus.

Those of us who live in the Comox Valley should be particularly concerned about these observations. Our estuary and Baines Sound are important to our local economy and are one of the prime oyster growing areas in the world. Despite this, our local Sewage Commission continues to support and maintain leaky force mains in the foreshore and is suggesting the construction of a large sewage pump station in Beech Street, an area that is not serviced by sewer. This would be unfair to affected residents and would create significant risks for wells and aquifers in the area, which is close to the sensitive ecosystem of the Goose Spit.

These environmental, health, and safety issues could easily be avoided by moving the sewage infrastructure overland. This would involve upgrading the ageing Courtenay pump station (see CVRD engineer comments in recent media)and force main rather than pursuing an unnecessary and stop-gap measure in Beech Street. This approach would also be cost-effective. Specifically, an analysis has determined that it would save taxpayers between seven and twelve million dollars over the current proposal.

Is it not time to get all force mains out of our coastal waters and on land?

Yours sincerely,

DR. PAUL HORGEN, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto (retired microbiologist)
DR. LUI CARVALHO
DR. DON BLACKLOCK
DR. ALBERT HOULGRAVE

cc. Charmain Enns Medical officer

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