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BC Ferries using portable toilets, not treatment, on Gabriola vessel

British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. is getting accolades for moving towards sewage treatment, but in at least one case the provincial government-owned company appears to be overstating the state of its system.

“The Gabriola Island ferry has a treatment plant,” the Nanimo Daily News reported yesterday in an article that quoted B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

“In compliance with the Nanaimo Port Authority's no-dumping rules, [the ferry] also takes the extra step of having its sewage pumped on shore and processed by facilities at the Regional District of Nanaimo,” the article said.

As it happens, the ferry serving Gabriola, the Quinsam, had three portable toilets added to its deck this morning. That's right—the washrooms are closed and the vessel is using the same kind of plastic johnny-on-the-spot toilets more familiar to construction workers and festival goers.

Asked by the Tyee about the Quinsam's portable toilets, Marshall said, “It's going into refit.” She said she would get more information and call back, but had not by posting time.

The Nanaimo article said B.C. Ferries “plans to spend millions to build 'pump ashore' sewage systems at a number of its terminals” and phase out the dumping of sewage into the ocean before new federal regulations are implemented in 2012.

UPDATE, 1:20 p.m.: B.C. Ferries' Deborah Marshall called to confirm the Quinsam's bathrooms have been closed so engineers can fix the vessel's sewage treatment system. The Quinsam is scheduled for a refit starting Oct. 15, she said. "They are hoping to get [the treatment plant] fixed before the ship goes back for refit."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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