Dealing with a Crappy Problem

Human sewage and wastewater are having profound effects on the marine environment, human communities and businesses surrounding Baynes Sound. The Steering Committee of the Baynes Sound/Lambert Channel EcoForum has organized the next working session around this critical challenge.

It takes placeThursday, December 1, 2022, between 9:30am and 3:00pm at Vancouver Island University’s Deep Bay Marine Station.  

This EcoForum will provide an opportunity for local, regional, provincial, federal and First Nations governments, industry, and conservation groups to participate in a learning exchange.  Facilitated discussions will help identify solutions and the steps needed to nurture a healthy marine ecosystem.

The Morning Session:

9:15 – 9:30 AM Find the room, settle in, grab a coffee, say hello

9:30 – 9:45 AM

Land acknowledgment /Opening and Updates from Steering Committee

9:45 -10:00AM


Contamination of Pacific oysters by human norovirus is a major impediment to sustainable shellfish farming in coastal waters of British Columbia. Human noroviruses are not marine viruses. They originate from a human source. A barrier to effective management is a paucity of data on how far human noroviruses can disperse in coastal waters of British Columbia from boats, leaking septic fields and sewer overflows. To address this limitation, Dr. Tim Green from Vancouver Island University developed a high-throughput norovirus sequencing assay to assist the epidemiological objectives of tracking specific genotypes of human norovirus through space and time in Baynes Sound. The Sound was chosen because this site is where most farmed oysters and clams are harvested in British Columbia. Data from this study suggests tidal currents can disperse human norovirus up to 15 kilometers and human norovirus persists for up to 28 days in coastal waters of British Columbia. Overlaying data from the spatial-temporal model of norovirus in sentinel oysters with sewage plume maps in Google Earth indicates that small craft harbors and urban settings pose a significant risk to shellfish farming operations in the region.



In 2018, it became illegal for vessels to dump sewage (treated or untreated) in Puget Sound, just over the Canadian border. This No Discharge Zone is part of an Action Agenda that includes investments in stormwater management, septics and agricultural runoff to improve water quality in Puget Sound. Jess Huybregts, Northwest Region Water Quality Planner with the Washington State Department of Ecology, will share how the law is being implemented is enforced, and what role public education plays in helping protect Puget’s Sound’s ecological, economic, and recreational value.  (Via Zoom)


Discussion Period

10:30 – 10:45. Stretch your legs, grab a snack

10:45AM-11:00 AM


There are 9,000 septic systems in the rural areas of the Comox Valley Regional District. Many of them have been in operation for decades. This joint presentation by Comox Valley Regional District Manager of Liquid Waste Planning Darry Monteith and Island Health water consultant Nancy Clements will look at recent analysis of septic system records in several areas surrounding Baynes Sound. How are problematic areas identified? And what measures could be put into place to mitigate impacts? 



Denman-based hydrogeologist Steve Carballeira has years of experience with rural, residential septic systems and the people who own them.  He says most of us have no idea what happens when we flush, and that public education is key. Older homes, failing septic systems and the obstacles to changes – a firsthand look.  


Questions and Discussion

11:45AM – NOON


Facilitator Jessie Hemphill will set the stage for the afternoon session participant discussions and ways to identify paths to improvements.

NOON -12:45PM

Lunch provided by SweetPea catering.



Using the information from the morning’s presentations, participants will divide into break out tables to identify priorities and collaborative actions. EcoForum steering committee member Dorrie Woodward (need for action) and facilitator Jessie Hemphill (how to get there) set the stage.

Potential table discussions

  1. Industry
  2. Community
  3. Health
  4. Marine Life/Ecosystem

The Guiding Question: 

  • What can stakeholders do to address human contamination of Baynes Sound?    

13:45 -14:00 PM

Beverage Break


Using the information from the day’s presentations and break out discussions, facilitator Jessie Hemphill will guide participants in identifying concrete and collaborative big steps to improve and protect marine life in Baynes Sound.

15:00PM. Safe Travel Home

About the EcoForum

About the EcoForum The Baynes Sound Lambert Channel EcoForum is a meeting of groups with a stake in the health of the marine ecosystem in Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel. Groups include First Nations, all levels of government, industry, NGO’s, academia, and others.  Information and discussion from Forum meetings lead to a clearer understanding of issues for all stakeholders who can take this new understanding back to their organizations with recommendations for change in their area of influence.  The Forum is a catalyst for change but is not an entity unto itself. It is a connector between organizations with common interests and issues.