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Did you know Metro Vancouver’s largest wastewater treatment plant, Iona Island, discharges under-treated sewage directly into the Salish Sea? 


Current plans are for the Iona Plant to be upgraded to the minimum standard of secondary treatment by 2030. There is no question that a higher standard, tertiary treatment, should be implemented as soon as possible to protect local waters.

The Fraser River and Salish Sea provide habitat for keystone Pacific salmon, endangered orcas, and important migratory birds. These bodies of water also receive and carry under-treated outfall from Metro Vancouver’s largest wastewater treatment facility,  Iona Island Wastewater Treatment Plant (IIWWTP).

The Iona Plant is located at the mouth of the Fraser River and treats more than two billion litres of Greater Vancouver’s waste and storm water each year.


Currently, the Iona Plant treats sewage at a primary level, meaning the facility releases microplastics, pharmaceuticals, and harmful chemicals into the Strait of Georgia through its 7km long outfall pipeline.


We know it's not enough. 

The facility  is only capable of removing roughly 50% of suspended solids, and is unable to filter harmful chemicals and pharmaceuticals before they are dumped into the Salish Sea. Current plans are for the Iona Plant to be upgraded to the minimum standard of secondary treatment by 2030. There is no question that a higher standard, tertiary treatment, should be implemented as soon as possible to protect local waters. 


We want Metro Vancouver to take wastewater treatment at the Iona Plant  further — by introducing tertiary treatment — to protect our watersheds, vibrant marine ecosystems, and overall health of the Pacific Northwest.

With Vancouver’s desire to be the Greenest City in the World, the upgrade to the Iona Plant is a rare opportunity to tackle the issue of pollution in the Salish Sea, and support the health of its inhabitants and surrounding communities.

Tell city officials that the Fraser River Delta, and the Salish Sea are not a dumping grounds.


The Fraser Estuary, Salish Sea, and Iona Island are critical pieces of habitat for all Pacific salmon species, orcas, and migratory birds. These populations depend on a healthy Salish Sea, free of harmful chemicals, microplastics, and pharmaceuticals. 


Recognized as a Ramsar 'wetland of international importance', the diversity and function of the Fraser River and Salish Sea must be considered in this opportunity for for a healthier British Columbia.

Pacific Salmon

Pacific salmon are a keystone species of the northwest. The Fraser River historically being one of the greatest salmon rivers in the world. 

IIWWTP sits on a manmade jetty, and relies on a series of structures that have impeded the ability for salmon to seek refuge before heading out to the open ocean - increasing predation, and decreasing survival rates. 

Without the ability for the facility to remove chemicals, and microplastics, it's clear that these fish are also ingesting them. 

Migratory Birds

"The Fraser estuary is one of the richest and most important ecosystems for migrant and wintering waterbirds in Canada.


This Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) supports globally or continentally significant populations of fifteen species, including American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Mallard, Brant, Snow Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Western Sandpiper,  Dunlin, and Great Blue Heron. In addition, the IBA supports nationally significant numbers of Barn Owl and Peregrine Falcon. The most numerous species found here is the Western Sandpiper - one-day, peak count estimates of at least 500,000 have historically occurred during spring migration, though more recent estimates range from 120,000-180,000, which is a substantial proportion of the global Western Sandpiper population. Iona Island itself is one British Columbia’s key birding hotspots as a total of 286 different bird species have been spotted on the island. The vast abundance and diversity of birds has led to the estuary receiving a number of international designations including a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of Hemispheric Importance and a BirdLife International Important Bird and Biodiversity Area. "


James Casey, Fraser Estuary Specialist - Bird Studies Canada

Southern Resident Killer Whales

Southern Resident orcas are a genetically distinct population that lives off the Pacific Northwest coast. Habitat critical to their survival is found in the Salish Sea and includes the southern part of Georgia Strait, parts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. As of September 2019, only 73 Southern Resident orcas remain. Key threats facing this culturally significant population include a lack of prey, high levels of underwater noise, physical disturbance from vessels and ocean pollution. Toxic contaminants accumulate in the marine food web through processes called bioaccumulation and biomagnification and enter the bodies of Southern Resident orcas via the food they eat. These contaminants concentrate in orcas’ fat reserves over the long-term. During times of poor prey availability, orcas metabolize their fat stores for energy, releasing the stored contaminants into the bloodstream, resulting in possible immune system depression, reproductive impairment, and developmental issues.

Tessa Danelesko, Species Protection Coordinator - Georgia Strait Alliance

“The Fraser River estuary is an internationally significant natural treasure; one that includes more than 17,000 hectares of wetland supporting an immense diversity of life ranging from 1.4 million migratory birds to more than 2 billion juvenile salmon. It’s an area that deserves the highest level of protection possible...”

Mark Angelo - Founder, World Rivers Day



*Biological Oxygen Demand, or BOD is the oxygen demand needed by microorganisms to digest the organic pollutants in the water. Higher BOD implies that there are more organic pollutants to digest (mg O2/litre of sample)

When it comes to the most suitable treatment, what are our options?


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We stand with the following community groups in advocating for a tertiary treatment at the Iona Island Wastewater treatment plant