Two Wrongs Make A Right

  • Posted on: 1 May 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

"Two Wrongs Never Make A Right." -- how many times did you hear that as a kid?

When faced with a problem, people will look for a solution that packs a lot of energy and complexity into the equation. Then it seems to compound the problem. Compounded problems are something that humans make. Nature, on the other hand, doesn't abide by complicated solutions. They can be complex and intricate, but they begin from simple concepts (eg. "nature abhors a vacuum"). When faced with these problems in our community we can deploy solutions that turn a problem into fuel for some better outcome. There are many ways we can turn combined problems into shared solutions. Here are three problems and the solutions I propose:

Food Scraps

The City of Victoria generated over 32,000kg of CO2 in its effort to save our planet. When that carbon intensive ploy ran out of road, they tried to ship the food scraps over to the mainland. Out of sight, out of mind. Food scraps are calories. They're calories we're not willing to eat, but why don't we take a page from Vegas' play book? Las Vegas is a mecca for conspicuous consumption. They are a community several times bigger than Victoria. I would argue their food waste generation is also larger per-capita than Victoria. Vegas ships its food scraps to nearby pig farms. Pigs eat the scraps. They'll eat almost anything that vaguely counts as food. The Nevada farmers take those nice, large pigs and send them to porcine university where they graduate as bacon, ham, etc..

Victoria was paying to dump its food scraps and have them managed. Encourage a couple local farms to get into the hog business. Ship them the food scraps. Why not give the pig farmer some cash along with the food scraps. Farmers are under siege from various financial pressures. This solution:
  • Keeps food scraps out of the landfill.
  • It gives a food source to local farmers.
  • We could also pay to dump (as we do already) giving local farmers a better bottom line.
  • Bacon. This solution converts into some quantity of bacon.

School Gardens

Several local schools have been deactivated. Their lawns are being managed by the School Board. A friend, Veronica Vander Heiden, lives across the street from one of these deactivated and converted schools (converted to School Board admin use). She asked: why are they mowing a lawn that they could turn into a community garden? A 27 square meter patch of land can augment the diet of an average family by letting them grow their own vegetables. What if the local school board leased out the fields at the deactivated schools and turned them into community gardens? That would be much less space to be mowed and managed by the school board. While we're talking green space, why not convert some of the space into composting space for food scraps? Local converted schools can take on the food scraps for a hundred nearby homes and convert their scraps into soil for the community garden. Those scraps would not have to be trucked to a dedicated location, but instead see use almost in their back yard.

Sewage Treatment

The specter of tertiary treatment looms like a boogeyman according to some local well paid mercenaries who are proposing their solution is the only solution. I have considered the sewage issue as dubious. Horrible optics, but if we get past our squeamishness, we're flushing nutrients into the nearby eco-system. We're throwing millions of calories at the bottom of the marine food chain. Along with that, we are also throwing toxins of all sorts. The secondary treatment scheme takes away the nutrients, scrubs the optics, but it leaves the toxins free to enter the eco-system. Can you imagine a worse solution? That first link in the food chain is going to be starved while being poisoned.

Here is what I propose. It's costs and functionality are distributed. Best of all, parts of the system are currently working in the region:
  • Large outfits (large buildings, malls, subdivisions) have to treat their sewage to a standard (ie. tertiary treatment).
  • In the first 5 years, the CRD gives them a tax credit equivalent to their sunk costs to encourage speedy installation.
  • After 5 years, the tax credit diminishes annually towards nothing after 20 years. That means late arrivals have to bear more cost and late arrivals could deploy better / cheaper technology when it comes time for them to break ground. - Any building over a square footage will require to carry out its own treatment. This would force large Federal, Provincial and Regional government offices to bear their own costs. Likewise, I would make those facilities ineligible for the tax credit. If government cannot tax itself, government cannot subsidize itself.
  • As Victoria is government-heavy, that's a lot of square footage that wouldn't get a tax break. There is precedent for Provincial government buildings in the region doing tertiary treatment of their own sewage. In the case I recall, they turned their gray water into water for toilets and gardening.
  • The CRD buys sites for distributed plants to cover off distributed sewage. The $17-million for Viewfield could have bought 34 residential properties that could have been converted to distributed plants. Changes to zoning can allow residential property be used for this utility.
  • I look at the Telus substation in Esquimalt (650 Head St. ). Distributed plants can be made to fit into the communities.
  • If one of the plants fails, it allows untreated sewage to flow through. This is the same as the Sea Terra single-point-of-failure plan wherein all of the sewage in the city would flow out untreated for an undetermined amount of time.
  • The job of removing the solids could be a matter for private enterprise to take up and carry out. There would have to be a standard, but it's cheaper for the CRD to set and monitor the standard than it is to carry it out.
  • This would distribute the risk, the cost and the impact. Also, it could result in using existing sewers to dump treated water into the ocean. Sorry: you can't tear up Dallas Rd. and replace the roads with bike lanes. The idea of piping sewage inland for miles is just daft. Likewise, is making a second route for flows that should leave our buildings clean enough to be considered marginally safe.

My suggestion: look for how problems create solutions.

Image from Wikimedia

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50