The ocean is polluted enough.  I hold my breath and scoop up my dog feces with a plastic bag.  At least that won’t find its way into the water.

But I know it wouldn’t have made much difference to the ocean water off the Pacific Northwest.   Whatever goes into the drains eventually finds its way into the oceans.  In fact, everything we ingest – antibiotics, antidepressants, painkillers, caffeine etc. – goes through the sewage systems and into the ocean. The consequences for fish, marine mammals, and sea birds are uncertain. 

 University of Washington researchers say pollutants going into Puget Sound include cinnamon and vanilla from holiday cooking.  The smell of these spices can confuse fish, especially salmon relying on their sense of smell to find their way back to spawning rivers. 

I hold the plastic bag away from my body to avoid the smell.  But there are smells here I can’t avoid.  Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city at the southern tip of Vancouver Island, pours untreated sewage into the ocean.  Pieces of raw sewage frequently pollute beaches in the US San Juan Islands.  Tests have shown fish can survive no longer than 20 minutes in Victoria’s sewage, compared with a survival time of 96 hours in pulp mill effluent.  When Mr. Floatie tried to run in a recent city election to bring attention to the problem the city threatened to sue him if he didn’t withdraw his candidacy.  A 1993 agreement with Washington State to improve sewage treatment has been ignored, as have Canadian federal laws and regulations set by federal agencies. 

None of this prevents Victoria advertising its beaches and oceans in its tourist promotions.  

Vancouver, frequently touted as one of the world’s most livable cities, dumps primary-treated sewage into the ocean from two outfalls; primary treatment removes few pollutants; secondary treatment removes as much as 90 percent.

I dump my plastic bag into the garbage.  The plastic will survive in the local landfill for decades, perhaps centuries.  

Is everything lose-lose?


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