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The effluent society : water pollution and environmental politics in British Columbia, 1889-1980 Keeling, Arn M. 2004

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THE EFFLUENT SOCIETY: WATER POLLUTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1889-1980 by ARN M. KEELING B.A., Carleton University, 1996 M.A., University of British Columbia, 1999 A T H E S I S S U B M I T T E D I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F D O C T O R O F P H I L O S O P H Y in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Geography) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA July 2004 © Arn M. Keeling ii Abstract British Columbia's rapid urbanization and industrialization in the twentieth century created extensive water pollution problems. Before the 1970s, many in industry and government considered waste disposal as a legitimate use of natural waterways, so long as it did not impair their usefulness for other purposes. However, social and political debates emerged over both the perception of pollution and its solution. By the late 1960s, public health advocates, sportsmen and commercial fisheries advocates had come to regard water pollution as a crisis, and demanded government action to protect the environment. This study shows how political conflicts in B.C. over water pollution echoed national and continental trends in environmental management and environmental values during the twentieth century. However, these debates were also shaped by particular geographical and environmental conditions in B.C., as well as social, political and economic aspects of provincial society. Through case studies of domestic and industrial pollution control, this study traces conflicts created by the use of water for waste disposal. Many in government and industry regarded the ability of water to dilute, disperse and absorb wastes as "assimilative capacity," a resource that could be managed and exploited. This dictum guided planning for sewage disposal in Greater Vancouver, as well as waste-disposal practices in the mining and pulp and paper industries. Provincial pollution and water law reflected the pro-development orientation of successive B.C. governments: the B.C. Pollution Control Board sanctioned the exploitation of assimilative capacity. This practice became controversial as water-quality problems arose throughout the province. Efforts to control and regulate water pollution from cities and industry reflected local geographical conditions, as well as changing scientific perceptions of pollution. Environmental change and social attitudes toward pollution also influenced reforms to pollution-I l l control policies. The history of water pollution in B.C. sheds new light on the province's social, economic and environmental history. Pollution problems illustrate the social and environmental impacts of urban and industrial growth in the twentieth century. Conflicts over pollution provide insight into changing environmental values and the emergence of the province's vital environmental movement. Finally, pollution-control debates decisively influenced the regime of environmental governance in the province. iv Acknowledgements Like many "individual" accomplishments, completing a PhD is actually a team effort. Strong coaching, timely support and a rigorous training program are all critical to success. The Geography team at the University of British Columbia gave great support and input from the sidelines, as well as useful advice and strategies in the locker room. After my MA I moved from History to Geography at UBC, but although just across campus, the move felt like a foreign exchange. The diverse and lively graduate and faculty community in Geography provided a stimulating environment. My thanks go to fellow graduate students (past and present) Bob Wilson, Alison Mountz, Etienne Rivard, Helen Watkins, Chris Ayles, Richard Powell, Matt Farish, John Thistle, David Brownstein, Emily Loeb, Matthew Schnurr, Rebecca Smith, Sarah Roberts, Geoff Andersen, Maija Heimo and others far too numerous to mention. Together we made a great team, in the department, the pub or on the soccer and softball field. The many coaches I have had through my graduate career have helped hone my "game." Robert McDonald supervised my MA and modelled his extraordinary care and focus on students. He was also an important part of my dissertation committee, and always good for a rant about B.C. politics and academia. Many faculty members in the Geography Department provided interest, support and encouragement. I have enjoyed making the acquaintance of committee member Matthew Evenden, whose sharp intellect and insights into B.C. environmental history mark him as "the future" for historical geography at UBC and in Canada. He was joined on my comprehensive exam committee by Tina Loo, another leader in environmental history at UBC. Mart Stewart, a historian from Western Washington University, offered timely words of encouragement and critical insights as the final work came together. Finally, I was privileged to be part of a community of graduate students in environmental history and historical geography assembled by Graeme Wynn. V Graeme's excitement about these fields is infectious, and his long experience proved invaluable at many stages of this work. The supervisor-student (coach-player?) relationship is a critical one during a PhD; ours has been both intellectually fruitful and personally enjoyable. The technical side of research and writing are important as well. Thanks to Geography Department staff including computer whiz Vincent Kujala, cartographer Eric Leinberger and the hard-working front-office staff for their assistance at various stages. One might regard graduate study as a move from the amateur to the semi-pro ranks of academics. Like semi-pro athletes, you ride a lot of busses and are poorly paid. I was fortunate in that my PhD studies and research were supported by a four-year doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The love and support of family are what really determine success, in sport and in life. My parents, Mike and Elaine, have unfailingly backed my efforts, even when it seemed I would never leave school. My beagles, Lucy (deceased) and Tilly, have been more than mascots; they have been a source of laughter and cuddles during lonely hours at work. Despite wondering at times just what the heck I was up to, Shannon has been a true friend, partner, mentor, editrix and sounding-board throughout the process. When you're a kid, you don't dream of writing a PhD thesis. It aint' the Cup. But it'll do. vi Contents Abstract ii Acknowledgements iv Table of Contents vi List of Figures vii Introduction 1 Section 1: "A Giant Flushing Machine": Sewage pollution and the construction of assimilative capacity in Greater Vancouver 21 Chapter 1: Constructing a Modern Sink for Wastes: Pollution and the sewerage of Vancouver, 1889-1960 29 Chapter 2: Fraser Savers: Urban water pollution in the age of ecology 75 Section 2:PoUutingtheF£interland: Water rx>lluh^ n from me nunrng and pulp and paper industries ..124 Chapter 3: Mining: Pollution from the "wasting resource" 136 Chapter 4: Governing Assimilative Capacity: The science and politics of pulp mill pollution 201 Section3: Crisis: Pollution, politics and environmentalism in B.C 273 Chapter 5: Beyond Assimilative Capacity: Pollution, politics and environmental values 282 Conclusion: Placing pollution in B.C. history 347 Bibliography 357 vn List of Figures Figure 1.1: Burrard Peninsula and the waters of the Greater Vancouver Region 68 Figure 1.2: Sewered and unsewered areas, 1912 69 Figure 1.3: R.S. Lea's map of the original hydrology of Burrard Peninsula 70 Figure 1.4: R.S. Lea's design for the trunk sewer system of Burrard Peninsula 71 Figure 1.5: Sewerage and drainage of Burrard Peninsula, circa 1950 72 Figure 1.6: Current observations made by the Fraser Estuary Project, April 1950 73 Figure 1.7: Diversion and treatment of Vancouver sewage under the Rawn plan, 1953 74 Figure 2.1: The cover of the Society for Pollution and Environmental Control's Fraser River Report 122 Figure 2.2: Sewerage and Drainage facilities of the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District, 1971 123 Figure 3.1: Mines and mills of the Sheep Creek rnining district, 1913 197 Figure 3.2: Southwestern B.C 198 Figure 3.3: Campbell River drainage and Buttle Lake 199 Figure 3.4: Quatsino Sound on northwestern Vancouver Island 200 Figure 4.1 ^ Locations ofpulp mills on the B.C. coast 268 Figure 4.2: The head of Alberni Inlet and the Somass River estuary 269 Figure 4.3: Waldichuk's schematic diagram of typical marine environments along the B.C. coast.... 270 Figure 4.4: Locations ofpulp mills in B.C., 1983 271 Figure 4.5: Quatsino Sound, showing the location of the Port Alice pulp mill on Neroutsos Inlet 272 1 Introduction Since time immemorial, people have employed water as a convenient medium for the disposal of wastes. In doing so, they have sometimes created pollution, either by spreading disease pathogens or degrading environmental conditions. One of humanity's most vexing problems has been how to balance the need to dispose of domestic and industrial wastes with the need for a clean environment. When settlements and industrial activities were modest in scale, they generally exerted minimal, localized environmental impacts. As population and industries have grown, however, their wastes have presented potentially devastating health, aesthetic and environmental problems. In the twentieth century, the pace and scale of this growth quickened, increasing the volume of wastes. New industrial processes such as chemical pulp and paper production and mineral smelting fouled waters with toxic wastes that decimated fish populations and made water unfit for drinking or other uses. Pollution is now a global problem that threatens the integrity of the most essential element of human life, clean water.1 In spite of the ubiquity of water quality problems, pollution is neither experienced nor understood in the same way at all times and places. It not only implies environmental deterioration, but also encompasses disputed technical, social, moral and legal issues. Historian Joel Tarr describes pollution as "the product of the interaction among technology, scientific knowledge, human culture and values, and the environment. Environmental policy and control technology are further elements..."2 Divergent and changing definitions of what constitutes Vandana Shiva, Water Wars: Privatization, pollution, and profit (Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2002); John McNeill, Something New Under the Sun: An environmental history of the twentieth-century world (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), chap. 5. Joel A. Tarr, "The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban Air, Land, and Water Pollution in Historical Perspective," The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban pollution in historical perspective (Akron: University of Akron Press, 1996), 7. 2 pollution have been fundamental to the political and scientific debates surrounding its control. Environmental conditions are interpreted differently by different observers, whether biologists or engineers, housewives or politicians, industrialists or workers. Environmental philosopher Neil Evernden contends that how pollution is perceived, and the meanings attached to it, are crucial to understanding its political dimensions. "Pollution is simultaneously... an act of defilement, a means of moral coercion, and an indicator of underlying disagreements about societal goals," he writes.3 Political, social, economic and environmental conditions shape the perception of pollution at different times and in different places. Historical struggles over the perception and control of pollution reveal conflicts over environmental values and the authority to control and use nature. This dissertation explores the environmental history of twentieth-century British Columbia through the issue of water pollution. At the turn of the twentieth century, water quality was virtually unregulated in B.C. By the end of the 1970s, however, water was governed by a welter of anti-pollution regulations and authorities designed to safeguard public health, other water users and environmental quality. The move from lesser to greater regulation in B.C. echoed developments across North America in the twentieth century. Governments at every level across the continent created an array of regulatory mechanisms — laws, regulations, schedules, penalties and incentives — that directly challenged the indiscriminate use of the environment for waste dumping. Like forests, minerals and other resources, pollution became the object of bureaucratic management, expert planning and scientific investigations. But the history of pollution control is not a straightforward story of ever-improving methods of environmental management. Rather, government regulation of water quality developed out of changing and contested definitions of Neil Evernden, "Pollution," in Robert Paehlke, ed., Conservation and Environmentalism: An encyclopaedia (New York: Garland, 1995), 525. 3 pollution problems and intense political debates over their solution. Pollution problems arose as a result of the rapid urbanization and industrialization of B.C. in the twentieth century. However, social and political debates emerged over the perception of pollution and its solution. Up to the 1970s, many in industry and government regarded waste disposal as a legitimate use of natural waterways, so long as it did not impair their usefulness for other purposes. As pollution threats mounted in the province, public health advocates, sportsmen and commercial fisheries advocates began to question this philosophy. In the 1960s, many people in B.C. came to regard water pollution as a crisis, which led to demands for government action to protect the environment. They argued that cities and industries should be responsible for treating their wastes, even in the absence of scientifically proven environmental impacts. Political conflicts in B.C. over water pollution echoed national and continental trends in environmental management and environmental values during the twentieth century. However, these debates were also moulded by particular geographical and environmental circumstances in B.C., as well as the social, political and economic conditions of provincial society. While uniquely shaped by place and environment, B.C.'s experience also provides an important and instructive example of the history of environmental regulation. The abundance of water in the province's rivers, lakes and shorelines contributed to the notion that pollution could be controlled with proper planning and management. However, as British Columbians quickly discovered, local geographical and hydrological conditions presented problems for waste-disposal planning, industrial location and conflicting uses of the environment. Their responses to these local problems refracted larger trends in environmental science and governance through intensely local water-pollution conflicts. Whether beach pollution in Vancouver, fouled creeks in the Kootenays, or fish kills in coastal inlets, local pollution problems framed how larger policy questions were understood. Pollution policy was also shaped by questions of political authority over nature. The macro-scale politics of regulation reflected in most histories of environmental policy and governance fail to reflect how pollution problems and solutions are shaped by particular historical-geographical settings and environmental problems. In Canada, the provinces provide a logical unit for the study of environmental regulation. Under the country's constitutional division of powers, provincial governments hold authority over most Crown land and natural resources, with some limited exceptions. This arrangement has historically limited the importance of the federal government in environmental and resource administration to key federal spheres of authority, such as commercial fisheries. Water quality was also subject to local regulation by civic bylaws and metropolitan authorities. Focussing on water pollution, this study explores how the changing scale of environmental problems and environmental governance shaped pollution control problems and solutions. From metropolitan attempts to co-ordinate sewage disposal to provincial and federal efforts to control industrial pollution, state pollution-control activities developed in relation to intricate inter-jurisdictional politics as well as in response to particular environmental conditions. The B.C. experience indicates that there is no "natural" scale for confronting pollution and environmental problems; rather, environmental governance initiatives are a product of place and history. *** Boasting nearly one-third of Canada's precipitation runoff, British Columbia does not want for water. Along with an extensive ocean shoreline, B.C. contains thousands of freshwater lakes and several high-volume rivers. Water resources play a critical role in provincial economy and society, supplying irrigation, hydroelectricity, fisheries resources, industrial uses and domestic water needs. However, as geographer Sandra Smith points out, "water tends to be rather uneven in 5 its spatial distribution and it varies considerably in its availability over time."4 Precipitation falls disproportionately on coastal areas, and there is great seasonal variation in stream flows due to the entrainment of much winter precipitation in mountain snowpacks. Both water's relative abundance and its uneven geographical and temporal distribution have been major factors in water-quality management. Water quality problems emerged in B.C. around the turn of the twentieth century in connection with urban domestic-waste disposal. The first section of this dissertation examines attempts by engineers, planners and municipal authorities to confront sewage pollution in the waters around Vancouver. Like many other cities, Vancouver relied on surrounding ocean and river waters to dilute and disperse its wastes. Beginning in 1913, the city's efforts to manage wastes through the creation of large-scale technological networks transformed urban space and nature. However, these and subsequent sewerage plans were undermined by intermunicipal rivalry, the cost of infrastructure improvements and the natural limits to the region's waste sinks. As a result, pollution from sewage contamination continued to threaten city beaches and waterways. These problems brought the province into the field of environmental governance, through the creation of a Pollution Control Board in 1956 to protect water quality in the Greater Vancouver region. By the late 1960s, public concerns over sewage pollution reached a fever pitch due to changing views of urban nature and the failure of public agencies to control persistent pollution problems. The resulting political conflicts over domestic waste treatment and disposal to the Fraser River reshaped regional and provincial approaches to pollution control in the 1970s. Industrial pollution problems in B.C. arose chiefly in hinterland areas, where the 4 Sandra Smith, "Water Resources," in British Columbia, The Pacific Province: Geographical Essays, Colin J.B. Wood, ed. (Victoria: Western Geographical Press, 2001), 65. 6 province's dominant industries, mining and forestry, were mainly located. The second section of this study traces the conflicts over water pollution from mines and pulp and paper mills, and the impact of these conflicts on environmental regulation. Early in the century, few questioned the right of these industries to use waterways to dispose of mine tailings or pulp mill effluent. Because of their remote locations, industrial concerns regarded pollution abatement as an unnecessary cost, since pollution was unlikely to affect public health. Indeed, the province's rivers, lakes and tidewaters provided an important waste-disposal service for these industries. Resource-dependent communities and a development-oriented provincial government generally tolerated the degradation of streams, lakes and shorewaters as an inevitable part of industrial activity. However, pollution created conflicts between industrial waste disposal and recreational and commercial fisheries interests. This attracted regulatory concern and activity from federal and provincial fisheries officials. As Chapter 3 shows, because mining generally affected interior sport fisheries, provincial officials took the lead in confronting mining impacts on water quality. The potential impact of the pulp and paper industry on commercial fisheries, which attracted regulatory and scientific concern from federal officials, is discussed in Chapter 4. As the scale and impact of industrial pollution increased after the Second World War, these officials engaged in a variety of efforts to study the impact of waste discharges, to negotiate improvements to waste disposal practices and to restrict pollution. In doing so, they encountered problems of political authority over the environment, scientific uncertainty around pollution and industrial resistance to pollution controls. As public concern mounted over environmental damage in the late 1960s, mining and pulp mill pollution became the subject of intense political debates in B.C. Several high-profile pollution disputes triggered significant reforms to the practices of environmental governance at both the provincial and federal levels. 7 The final section examines in greater detail the political and regulatory effects of shifting social perceptions of pollution in the late 1960s. High-profile pollution incidents around the world and changing public perceptions of the environment fuelled fears of an "environmental crisis." In B.C., these fears, along with simmering discontent over the environmental management practices of the provincial government, stimulated a wave of environmental activism. Pollution was at the forefront of public environmental concerns during what has been called "the environmental era."5 Led by the B.C. Wildlife Federation, sportsmen's organizations adopted a strident critique of pollution and resource exploitation policy informed by conservation ideology, sporting ethics and ecological ideas. Sportsmen were joined by a variety of environmental advocacy groups that emerged in the late 1960s. Among these groups, the Society for Pollution and Environmental Control, or SPEC, embodied the vagaries of pollution politics in the turbulent period of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The organization's initial dramatic growth, widespread activities, and subsequent precipitous decline illustrated the deep connections between the international environmental movement and particular local issues and conditions. Woven through the first two sections is an account of the activities of the Pollution Control Board, the provincial body charged with regulating water quality in B.C. In the 1970s, the board held a series of public inquiries held which dramatized the contested politics of pollution in B.C. Aimed at generating technical information for the creation of pollution-control standards, the hearings became a highly charged forum for disparate views on waste disposal, pollution and environmental protection. In particular, industry and environmental advocates clashed over the science and philosophy of pollution regulation. The published pollution-control objectives that emerged from this process were 5 Samuel P. Hays, Beauty, Health, Permanence: Environmental politics in the United States, J955-1985 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987). 8 attacked on all sides as the government struggled to find a regulatory approach that would satisfy both environmentalists and waste dischargers. Several interrelated themes in the history and politics of pollution control emerge from this account. First, pollution controls and environmental governance were expressions of the rise of the regulatory state in the twentieth century.6 "Environmental governance" is a term used by environmental economists and political scientists to refer to the formal and informal institutions developed to regulate access to resources or mediate environmental conflicts. As Jouni Paavola notes, environmental governance institutions reflect the historical, social and environmental context in which they are developed.7 In B.C., the overall trend towards greater regulation obscures considerable complexity. Since pollution controls were resisted by industries (and sometimes municipalities), governments proved reluctant to create or enforce them. When environmental damage or public pressure forced governments to act, they often enacted deliberately weak policies in order to limit the impact of regulation on waste dischargers. Environmental problems also produced clashes over the legal and political authority over nature. These clashes included jurisdictional disputes between governments at various levels, but also revealed contradictory impulses within governments. For instance, the provincial Fish and Wildlife Branch acted as an important check on pollution from within the pro-development provincial administration. As environmental concern mounted in the 1960s, governments were subject to often contradictory pressures from the public. On the one hand, the public demanded that Peter Gossage, Water in Canadian History: An overview, Inquiry on Federal Water Policy Research Paper 11 (Victoria: University of Victoria Department of Geography, March 1985), highlights the development of state management and control of water resources in the twentieth century. Jouni Paavola, "Water Quality as Property: Industrial water pollution and common law in the nineteenth century United States," Environment and History 8 (2002), 295-318. 9 governments intervene to regulate pollution; on the other, the public showed increasing distrust of public officials and of the bureaucratic management of the environment. The long-standing controversy surrounding the policies of the provincial Pollution Control Board exemplified the politicization of government environmental policy in the 1960s. The politics of science also shaped and constrained efforts at pollution control regulation. Scientific claims were critical to the definition of pollution problems, whether in terms of public-health problems, resource-conservation issues or ecological impacts. Technical knowledge changed significantly during the century, expanding the number of environmental parameters by which to measure pollution. By contesting the relevance or technical measurement of various parameters, or advancing others, various groups in society sought to constrain (or expand) how pollution was defined and regulated. Disputes over the meaning and measurement of coliform bacteria, trace heavy metals or the laboratory response of fish to pollutants formed a critical aspect of the politics of regulation. Science brought into view certain pollutants or environmental effects, but these measures became sites of political struggle over pollution policy. Different sources of expert authority, such as biology or engineering, justified various approaches to waste disposal and its regulation. Pollution conflicts also reflected changing, divergent perceptions of environment and risk. Sanitary and industrial engineers in government and industry approached pollution as a technical and economic problem. They regarded the use of water for waste disposal to be a legitimate, even desirable, activity so long as other water uses were not harmed. The waste-diluting capacity of water was, in this view, a resource to be efficiently managed and rationally exploited for economic benefit. Many members of the general public shared this faith in technical expertise and bureaucratic management of resources. However, they were quick to question this approach when 10 pollution problems arose. Sewage pollution, for instance, played upon the health fears of the public even when experts assured people that domestic wastes posed no disease threat. Moral and aesthetic sentiments against pollution also influenced the public perception of the hazards posed by waste disposal. By the mid-1960s, the increasing climate of public distrust of government and expertise, combined with growing ecological awareness, stimulated public reactions against the practice of exploiting the environment's assimilative capacity. The gulf in environmental perception between pollution "experts" and the public was illustrated time and again in conflicts over industrial and domestic waste disposal plans in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The themes and issues emerging from this account of the history of pollution in B.C. indicate the salience of regarding pollution in terms of resource history. Since the waste-assimilative capacity of provincial waters was regarded by many as a resource, its control and administration were framed in terms which reflected the distributive functions of natural-resource management. Resource development has been a central theme in B.C. history. Historians and geographers have recounted the development of legal and political structures designed to facilitate the large-scale exploitation of fisheries, minerals and forests.8 B.C. history has often been described in terms of the political and social conflicts surrounding the rapid expansion of these activities into the provincial hinterland. Many have drawn out the social implications of this history through the experiences of workers and other social groups on the industrial resource g Robert E. Cail, Land, Man, and the Law: Hie disposal of Crown lands in British Columbia, 1871-1913 (V ancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1974); Anthony H.J. Dorsey, "The Management of Super, Natural British Columbia," BC Studies 73 (Spring 1987), 14-32; Tina Loo, Making Law, Order, and Authority in British Columbia, 1821-1871 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994); Dianne Newell, Tangled Webs of History: Indians and the law in Canada's Pacific coast fisheries (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993); Jeremy Wilson, "Forest Conservation in British Columbia, 1935-1985: Reflections on a Barren Debate," BC Studies 76 (Winter 1987/88), 3-30; Douglas Harris, Fish, Law, and Colonialism: The legal capture of salmon in British Columbia (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001). For general accounts of the history and geography of resource development in B.C., see essays in Hugh J.M. Johnston, ed., The Pacific Province: A history of British Columbia (Vancouver: Douglas and Mclntyre, 1996); Colin J.B. Wood, ed., British Columbia, The Pacific Province: Geographical Essays (Victoria: Western Geographical Press, 2001). 11 frontier.9 Less frequently have the environmental impacts of these processes been drawn out. Clear exceptions to this trend are the works of Richard Rajala and Jeremy Wilson on forestry and environmental politics in British Columbia, which include a consideration — if not a thoroughgoing analysis — of the influence of non-human nature on the political and economic history of B.C. 1 0 Industrial resource exploitation has been documented through the production of commodities — the "rush for spoils" of provincial nature — but little attention has been paid to the environmental damage wrought in the form of pollution. Explorations by James Allum and John Wirth of the international dispute in the 1920s and 1930s over air pollution from the smelter at Trail, B.C., provide a tantalizing introduction to the larger question of the industrial abuse of nature.11 As their studies have indicated, the problem of pollution is important because it reveals how our society has valued (or abused) common environmental resources such as air, water, and soil. Their work also points to the geographical factors affecting pollution politics, including the mobility of pollutants, jurisdictional authority and conflict over the environment, and (to a lesser extent) the effects of uneven environmental impacts and conditions on the perception of pollution. As a kind of resource commons, water illustrates important aspects of changing regimes of environmental governance. When the Crown Colony of British Columbia was formed, water use was virtually unregulated. Access to water was governed by the bundle of English common-law 9 Newell, Tangled Webs of History; Patricia Marchak, Green Gold: The forestry industry in British Columbia (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1983); Rennie Warburton and David Cobum, eds., Workers, Capital, and the State in British Columbia (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1998); R. Cole Harris, "Industry and the Good Life around Idaho Peak" and "Making an Immigrant Society" in The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on colonialism and geographical change (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1996). 1 0 Richard Rajala, Clearcutting the Pacific Raincoast: Production, science and regulation (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1998); Jeremy Wilson, Talk and Log: Wilderness politics in British Columbia, 1965-1996 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1998). 1 1 James Robert Allum, "Smoke Across the Border: The environmental politics of the Trail smelter investigation" (PhD diss., Queen's University, 1995); John D. Wirth, Smelter Smoke in North America: The politics of transborder pollution (Lawrence, Kan.: University of Press ofKansas,2000). 1 2 rights and obligations known as the riparian doctrine; water itself was not considered property. In the opinion of eighteenth-century jurist William Blackstone, water "is a moveable, wandering thing, and must of necessity continue common by the law of nature; so that I can only have a temporary, transient, usufructary property therein."12 The control of water and rights of access to it extended from ownership of adjoining land. Downstream users of water were protected from the upstream appropriation or pollution of streams by the principle that riparian-rights holders were entitled to flows undiminished in quantity or quality. In B.C., as elsewhere in North America, changes to water law and administration in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries instigated a regime of state ownership, control and distribution of water rights.13 Through a kind of "enclosure" of water, the riparian doctrine was legally constrained (though not totally eliminated) in favour of the management of water resources for the purposes of economic development. The changing pattern of water law and regulation was a key aspect of the development of B.C.'s natural resources, including fisheries and forestry.141 argue that new approaches to water, particularly the role of the state in securing ownership and distributing the benefits of water use, crucially shaped provincial water-pollution policy. The use of the environment for waste disposal also came to be viewed as a state-controlled resource that was made available for the use of cities and industries. Unlike many resource histories, however, this study attempts to account for geographical conditions and environmental change. These factors are the hallmark of environmental history, an 12 Cited in Theodore Steinberg, Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the waters of New England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 14. 1 3 Ludwik A. Teclaff, Water Law in Historical Perspective (Buffalo: William S. Hein Co., 1985), chap. 1. 1 4 Cail, Land Man, and the Law, Harris, Fish, Law, and Colonialism. 13 approach to human-nature interactions still in its infancy in Canada.15 Environmental history may be distinguished from resource history by its particular attention to the role of environmental forces in the history of human encounters with non-human nature.16 Human impacts on landscape change have long been the province of historical geographers, who have contributed important concepts and insights into the historic interactions of people and place. In particular, geographers draw attention to critical questions of scale, location and mobility that influenced past perceptions and interactions with natural landscapes.17 In drawing from both the historical-geographical and environmental-history traditions, I employ a case-study approach to exploring the environmental changes wrought by waste disposal on the "waterscapes" of B.C. Environmental variability and the geographical problems of scale and location were significant factors in determining whether pollution occurred, how severe were its impacts and what policies were recommended for its abatement. To be sure, the analysis of geographical factors and environmental change has been challenging in some cases due to the difficulties of using historical sources to track environmental changes. However, this account suggests that an environmental-historical geography approach to pollution problems provides an important method of integrating social, environmental and Ramsay Cook, "Cabbages Not Kings: Towards an ecological interpretation of early Canadian history," Journal of Canadian Studies 25,4 (Winter 1990-91), 5-16; Alan MacEachern, "Voices Crying in the Wilderness: Recent works in Canadian environmental history," Acadiensis 31,2 (Spring 2002), 215-226; Graeme Wynn, Remaking the Land God Gave to Cain: A brief environmental history of Canada (London: Canada House, 1998). 1 6 The literature on environmental history is vast, varied, and growing. Useful introductions to the field may be gleaned from three separate special editions of journals featuring literature surveys and methodological meditations: Journal of American History 76,4 (March 1990); Pacific Historical Review 70,1 (2001); and History and Theory, Theme Issue 42 (December 2003). 17 Compared with studies of "landscape" (which supplies many useful concepts and approaches), the historical geography of the environment is a relatively undeveloped field. But see Lary Dilsaver and Craig E. Colten, eds., The American Environment: Interpretations of past geographies (Lanham, Md: Rowman and Littlefield, 1992); Graeme Wynn, Timber Colony: A historical geography of early nineteenth century New Brunswick (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981); Michael Williams, "The Relations of Environmental History and Historical Geography," Journal of Historical Geography 20,1 (1994), 3-21; J.M. Powell, "Historical Geography and Environmental History: An Australian interface," Journal of Historical Geography 22,3; J.M. Powell, "Historical Geographies of the Environment," in Brian Graham and Catherine Nash, eds., Modern Historical Geographies, (Essex: Pearson Education Ltd., 2000); J.G. Nelson, "Man and Landscape in the Western Plains of Canada," Canadian Geographer 11,4 (1967), 251-264; J.G. Nelson, Man s Impact on the Western Canadian Landscape (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1976). 14 geographical accounts of past environmental problems and conflicts. Like other resource and environmental histories, pollution history encompasses technological change, changing values and views of nature, the economics and geography of resource development, and the contradictory role of the state as promoter of industrial development and steward of the public interest. The phenomenon of water pollution differs from, for instance, forestry or mining development, because of the nature of water as a mobile resource governed by peculiar institutions of property, and the nature of pollution, which is not a productive activity in itself but rather what economists call a "negative externality," or byproduct of industrial production. Regarding pollution in terms of regimes of resource management and environmental governance, however, opens up important insights into the changing and contested views of pollution during the course of the twentieth century. It connects pollution-control administration with the pro-development policies of provincial governments, in particular the frenzied expansion of industrial resource-extractive activities after the Second World War. These policies, and the pollution that they created, became a significant source of social and political controversy by the 1960s. Pollution problems formed a major aspect of the intense environmental politics that developed in B.C. around questions of resource development and the abuse of nature. Although focussed on the history and environment of B.C., this account contributes to the growing literature on pollution and environmental conflict in twentieth-century North America. It will also be of interest to those who study urban environmental history and geography, the history of the mining and pulp and paper industries, and historians of environmentalism. Foremost, however, this story hopes to contribute to a deeper understanding of society and environment in British Columbia. It was the vitality and stridency of environmental politics in B.C. that led me to the question of pollution in the first place. The province is well-known as the home of Greenpeace, 15 the Western Canada Wilderness Committee and dozens of other vocal and active environmental groups, campaigning mainly on resource-conservation and wildlife/wilderness-protection issues. To my surprise, initial research revealed the salience of pollution as a catalytic issue for early B.C. environmental groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This account provides insights into the history of the conservation and environmental movements in B.C., and reflections on the politics of nature in the province. As an issue, pollution mobilized British Columbians in surprising and compelling ways, combining local and national issues and problems with the dramatic international rise in ecological consciousness during this period. In particular, water quality emerged as a formative problem for both pollution policy and environmentalist mobilization. While air pollution and solid waste have been important issues, neither exhibited the political salience of water pollution in this period. *** Efforts to solve waste disposal problems and control water pollution are as old as the problem itself. Archaeological evidence indicates that some provision for sewage disposal was made in ancient Indus Valley, Incan and Roman cities.18 For millennia, however, waste disposal systems were designed to simply remove sewage and other wastes to the nearest waterway. This practice continued with little modification as urban settlements grew, crowding together larger numbers of people, animals and their diseases. In addition to domestic sewage, industrial effluent containing noxious chemicals, animal offal and solid constituents flowed into waters surrounding cities. These wastes contributed to the persistent water-quality problems and intermittent plagues that made cities what historians John and William McNeill have called "demographic black holes" 18 William A. James, "A Historical Perspective on the Development of Urban Water Systems," lecture notes,, accessed December 2003. 16 until the 1850s.19 Before this time, the connection between water pollution and public health was poorly understood; many considered filthy water an aesthetic nuisance, not a health threat.20 Urban and industrial pollution problems followed the expansion of European society to North America. European settlers also brought with them the long-held notion that the "self-purifying agencies" of flowing water could safely dilute and disperse wastes. As industry and population expanded in the latter half of the nineteenth century, pollution problems became acute, particularly in eastern North America. Changing scientific theories of disease pathology linked water pollution from domestic wastes to epidemic diseases such as cholera, dysentery, yellow fever and typhoid. Manufacturing activity created vast amounts of wastes that polluted waterways with organic constituents and toxic chemicals. Still, pollution of local waters was often tolerated as an inevitable concomitant of industrial development and social progress.21 Mounting water-quality problems and changing social attitudes towards pollution prompted a variety of social, political and scientific responses beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Urban residents and water users downstream from major pollution sources challenged the unchecked disposal of wastes through the courts and through political demands to halt pollution. In the early twentieth century, governments around North America took halting steps towards the direct regulation of water quality by limiting industrial or domestic discharges, or setting baseline 19 J.R. McNeill and William H. McNeill, The Human Web: A bird 's-eye view of world history (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), 266. 20 For a provocative account of this shifting perception of water and pollution, see Jean-Pierre Goubert, The Conquest of Water: The advent of health in the industrial age (Oxford: Polity Press, 1989). 21 John T. Cumbler, Reasonable Use: The people, the environment, and the state, New England 1790-1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Charles E. Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832,1849, and 1866 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962); Steinberg, Nature Incorporated. 17 environmental quality standards.22 Pollution was increasingly viewed as a symptom of industrial and civic inefficiency. A body of experts called sanitary engineers emerged to confront the technical problems of industrial and domestic waste disposal and treatment.23 In many cases, however, cities continued to rely on water-purification technologies to ensure safe drinking-water supplies, rather than develop expensive waste-treatment and disposal technologies. Urban planners, sanitary engineers and industries regarded the ability of water to disperse, dilute and absorb domestic and industrial pollutants as a resource to be rationally exploited, so long as it did not impair other uses of water. Rooted in earlier notions of water's "self-purifying agencies," the "assimilative capacity" of the environment emerged as a key technical concept used in waste-disposal planning in the twentieth century. According to the doctrine of assimilative capacity, the natural biophysical processes and properties of water could be measured, managed and rationally utilized as a "sink" to avoid the costly treatment of domestic and industrial wastes. This approach was advocated by the sanitary engineering profession, which exercised considerable influence in water pollution control policy by the early twentieth century.24 As historians Terence Kehoe and Joel Tarr note, sanitary engineers embraced the principles of economic efficiency and expert planning in resource utilization characteristic of the Progressive-Christine Meisner Rosen, "'Knowing' Industrial Pollution: Nuisance law and the power of tradition in a time of rapid economic change, 1840-1864," Environmental History 8,4 (October 2003), 565-597; Joel A. Tarr, "Industrial Wastes, Water Pollution, and Public Health, 1876-1962," in The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban pollution in historical perspective, (Akron: University of Akron Press, 1996); .Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City: Urban infrastructure in America from colonial times to the present (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). 23 Martin V. Melosi, "Sanitary Engineers in American Cities: Changing roles from the Age of Miasmas to the Age of Ecology," in Effluent America: Cities, industry, energy, and the environment (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001). 2 4 Ibid.; Tarr, "The Search for the Ultimate Sink"; Joel A. Tarr, "Water and Wastes: A retrospective assessment of wastewater technology in the United States, 1800-1932," in The Search for the Ultimate Sink. 18 era conservation movement in North America.25 Conservation was an approach to resource management that sought to rationalize and improve the benefits to society from the capitalist exploitation of resources. It envisioned an important role for the state as a regulator, to prevent waste and inefficiency, and as a promoter, to ensure maximum development potential was reached. It advocated the application of scientific expertise to problems of resource development and management in both the public and private sectors. Conservation ideology promised that better understanding of natural resource systems, better harvesting and processing technologies, and better management of economic systems would ensure "the greatest good for the greatest number over the longest time."26 Varieties of this philosophy influenced resource-development planning throughout North America. For instance, the Canadian Commission of Conservation was founded on the principles of utilitarian conservation in 1909. These ideas also stimulated scientific management initiatives in fields as diverse as agriculture, game management, forestry and water basin development well into the 1960s.27 Ibid.; Terence Kehoe, Cleaning Up the Great Lakes: From cooperation to confrontation (DeKalb, DI.: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997), 22-23. The principle of efficiency guiding pollution control and resource conservation is explored in connection with the petroleum industry in Hugh S. Gorman, Redefining Efficiency: Pollution concerns, regulatory mechanisms, and technological change in the U.S. petroleum industry (Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2001). 2 6 Key discussions of Progressive conservation ideology include Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958); Clayton R. Koppes, "Efficiency, Equity, Esthetics: Shifting themes in American conservation," in Donald Worster, ed., The Ends of the Earth: Perspectives on modern environmental history, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Stephen Fox, John Muir and His Legacy: The American conservation movement (Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1981); Roderick Nash, ed., The American Environment: Readings in the history of conservation (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1968). 2 7 Alan F.J. and Gibert A. Stelter Artibise, "Conservation Planning and Urban Planning: The Canadian Commission of Conservation in historical perspective," in Consuming Canada: Readings in environmental history, Chad Gaffield and Pam Gaffield, eds (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1995); Michel Girard, L 'ecologisme Retrouve: Essor et declin de la Commission de la Conservation du Canada (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1996). Canadian aspects of the Progressive conservation impulse are discussed in R.P. Gillis and T.R. Roach, Lost Initiatives: Canada's forest industries, forest policy and forest conservation (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986); Tina Loo, "Making a Modern Wilderness: Conserving wildlife in twentieth-century Canada," Canadian Historical Review 82,1 (March 2001), 92-121; H.V. Nelles, The Politics of Development: Forests, mines and hydro-electric power in Ontario, 1849-1941 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974); Jeremy Wilson, "Forest Conservation in British Columbia, 1935-1985: Reflections on a barren debate " BC Studies 76 (Winter 1987/88), 3-30. 19 This philosophy deeply influenced water management and pollution control policy in B.C. Water resource management in B.C. favoured an interpretation of conservation as the promotion of "beneficial use" and the "full utilization" of provincial water resources.28 This policy included the use of waters for waste disposal. Sanitary engineers, politicians and industrialists often cited the vast waste-assimilative capacity of B.C. waters as a justification for untreated waste disposal. They expressed confidence that through proper planning, pollution problems seen in eastern North America and elsewhere could be avoided. An expert panel convened in 1952 to consider pollution policy in B.C. asserted that "pollution is an aspect of proper resource use."29 The challenge for water resource managers and pollution control engineers was to develop scientific measures of assimilative capacity to facilitate its exploitation. Protecting water quality was viewed as important only in relation to downstream uses of water. As the following account reveals, these concepts informed the mandate and policies of the provincial Pollution Control Board. Sportsmen, environmentalists, fishers and community groups in B.C. disputed this utilitarian view of water. In part, opposition to the use of water as a waste disposal medium reflected long-standing moral notions of water as a symbol of purity and health. As anthropologist Mary Douglas has suggested, the notion of pollution is rooted in ideas about defilement and the perception of dirt as "matter out of place."30 Water-quality proponents regarded the dumping of 28 H. D. DeBeck, Comptroller of Water Rights, "Present Use of British Columbia's Water," in Transaction of Seventeenth British Columbia Natural Resources Conference (Victoria, BCNRC, 1967), 39. See also BCARS, GR-1006 Water Rights Branch, Box 1 file 24, "Water Conservation Practices and Problems in B.C." paper prepared by the WRB, January 1959, for a national conference on conservation. See also Richard S. Campbell, Peter Pearse and Anthony Scott, "Water Allocation in British Columbia: An economic assessment of public policy," U.B.C. Law Review 7 (1972), 247-292. 29 Transactions of the Sixth Resources Conference (Victoria: BCNRC, 1952), 161-199. See also pollution panel planning meeting minutes in University of British Columbia Special Collections and University Archives Division, Roderick Haig-Brown papers, Box 119, file 5. 30 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An analysis of concepts ofpollution and taboo (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966). 20 untreated domestic and industrial wastes as a fundamentally inappropriate use of water. They advanced the idea of clean water as a public amenity, valuable for its recreational uses and its quality of "naturalness." The amenity values of water, including recreational fisheries, were increasingly couched in utilitarian conservation terms after the Second World War, and pollution was described as an infringement on the economic resources of fisheries and tourism. Defenders of environmental quality also adopted technical discourses of water quality to challenge the science of assimilative capacity. Environmentalists and biologists used ecological measures of environmental quality and the impact of pollution to challenge the engineering view of water as a kind of organic machine for waste disposal. These various opponents of pollution articulated views of water and nature that reasserted common rights and public control over nature, against what they regarded as the private appropriation of waterways as waste receptacles. In building a modern society on the Pacific Coast, British Columbians have been forced to reckon with the "effluence of affluence" and to make decisions about their priorities for economic development, social well-being and environmental quality. Notably, one of the earliest anti-pollution groups in B.C. called itself "Effluent Society." This name punned economist J.K. Galbraith's book The Affluent Society, but also demonstrated the links pollution critics increasingly made in the 1960s between industrial and urban development, prosperity and environmental degradation. It also suggested that British Columbia was an "effluent society" shaped by its attitudes towards and practices of waste disposal. It is a truism that some of the most revealing insights about a society are gleaned from its garbage. The following narrative suggests that the same may be said of how society confronts the problem of pollution. 21 Section 1 "A Giant Flushing Machine": Sewage pollution and the construction of assimilative capacity in Greater Vancouver Water pollution is commonly categorized by its provenance, whether domestic or industrial. While this conflates many similarities in the constituents and impacts of these wastes, the designation is useful because the two types of wastes are often products of very different historical, political and environmental circumstances. This opening section explores the control of pollution from domestic wastes in B.C. It uses the enduring problem of sewage pollution in twentieth-century Vancouver as a case study. Like most other modernizing urban centres, the expanding city confronted the ever-growing problem of liquid waste disposal by constructing piped sewerage and drainage systems. The first chapter examines how this method of sanitary waste disposal resulted in the reorganization of urban space and nature. Early civic leaders extolled the virtues of planned, public utilities to avoid the problems of pollution, disease and environmental danger that plagued older cities. But the ongoing contamination of local waters by sewage well into the latter half of the twentieth century revealed the shortcomings of the city's pollution-control technologies and strategies. The second chapter focuses on the mounting scientific, regulatory and public concern over the pollution of the Fraser River and its estuary by domestic waste streams. As a multi-use urban waterway, the Fraser was a symbolically and materially important river for Vancouverites. The exploitation of its high-volume waters was also a key component of the region's evolving wastewater disposal strategies. As pollution fears increased beginning in the 1960s, environmental groups and fisheries advocates challenged the authority of government regulators and technocratic managers, and advanced an alternative vision of regional waters based on ecological principles. 22 Human waste disposal, water supply and sanitation have posed basic challenges to urban development throughout human history. Historian Dale Porter has written that "sewers and sewage have become such an integral part of modern urban infrastructures that it is difficult to imagine alternative ways of thinking about the disposal of excrement, industrial waste, and rainwater runoff."1 Yet, as late as the mid-eighteenth century, most urban dwellers in Europe and North America used rainwater and local streams to flush human excreta and other waste from streets, lanes and cesspools. At best, tile- or earth-lined privy closets cleaned by "night-soil men" provided some containment of wastes. As urban populations grew, the problems associated with these practices became more acute. Crowd diseases such as cholera, typhoid and yellow fever flourished in these conditions, occasionally (and, to contemporaries, inexplicably) winnowing populations in episodic visitations.2 John and William McNeill recount how the "sanitary revolution" that confronted these problems in the nineteenth century changed cities from "demographic black holes" to places where birth rates exceeded death rates.3 Historians have documented how the waves of cholera that ravaged mid-late nineteenth-century European and eastern North American cities stimulated scientific debates and innovations that led to the identification of polluted water as a vector of disease. Yet as Christopher Hamelin perceptively points out, urban sanitary reform was not a coherent, progressive social enterprise, but rather a contested enterprise "forged from a peculiar 1 Dale H. Porter, The Thames Embankment: Environment, technology, and society in Victorian London (Akron: University of Akron Press, 1998), 50. 2 William H. McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York: Doubleday, 1976); Charles E. Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832,1849, and 1866 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962); Geoffrey Bilson,v4 Darkened House-Cholera in nineteenth century Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Bruce Curtis, "Social Investment in Medical Forms: The 1866 cholera scare and beyond," Canadian Historical Review 81,3 (2000), 347-79. JR. McNeill and William H. McNeill, The Human Web: A bird 's-eye view of world history (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), 266. 23 assortment of ideology, institutions, political circumstance, and perceptions of nature."4 Throughout the nineteenth century, debates swirled around the role of contaminated water in the spread of disease. Scientific theories of disease causation were influenced by conflicting moral, environmental, economic and political ideas, as well as by the competing expert communities of engineers, medical professionals and sanitary reformers. While some experts believed diseases were caused by "miasmas," or foul airs released by putrescent organic matter, others suggested diseases were caused by organisms living in contaminated water. While the solutions derived from these theories differed in emphasis, the public-health reform programs of John Snow and Edwin Chadwick in London, and the flamboyant George E. Waring in the U.S., linked disease control with the maintenance of urban environmental quality. By the 1890s, as the bacteriological theory gained acceptance, clean water and efficient waste disposal became recognized as the key to healthful and efficient modern cities.5 The subsequent development of centralized municipal water supplies and sewerage and drainage networks entailed the large-scale transformation of nature and the built environment in cities. The growing popularity of water-carriage technology and indoor plumbing overwhelmed the localized land-disposal methods of cesspools and privies, and threatened urban waterways with ever-greater volumes of wastes. In North America, the maintenance of urban order and cleanliness became a major Progressive-era project that encouraged municipal enterprise in the 4 Christopher Hamlin, A Science of Impurity: Water analysis in nineteenth-century Britain (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 4. 5 In addition to Rosenberg, Porter, and Hamlin, see Martin V. Melosi, The Sanitary City: Urban infrastructure in America from colonial times to the present (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000); Bill Luckin, Pollution and Control: A social history of the Thames in the nineteenth century (Bristol: Adam Hilger, 1986); Joel A. Tarr, "Decisions About Wastewater Technology, 1850-1932," in The Search for the Ultimate Sink: Urban pollution in historical perspective, (Akron: University of Akron Press, 1996); Suellen Hoy, Chasing Dirt: The American pursuit of cleanliness (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 61-80; JohnT. Cumbler, Reasonable Use: The people, the environment, and the state, New England 1790-1930 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 149-150. 24 provision of civic services, with the resulting expansion of government power and. influence.6 Cities turned to an emerging cadre of scientific experts, from medical health professionals to sanitary engineers, to design and implement public health regulations and technological networks for the control of the urban environment.7 As historian Stanley K. Schultz notes, "Not only did [engineering] offer solutions to such physical problems as water and sewer supply, it also contributed comprehensive planning schemes that illustrated the interaction of technology with the social, economic, and political structure of cities."8 Pollution problems transgressed pre-existing political boundaries and imagined geographies, forcing city leaders to re-conceptualize their territories as both natural and political. This entailed the development of new structures of urban governance. Sanitary engineers were at the forefront of urban planning and regional governance initiatives that reshaped the spaces of the city as they sought to control a recalcitrant urban nature. Nevertheless, disputes raged over the definition of and responsibility for water pollution, the appropriate technologies of waste disposal and treatment, the design and cost of capital-intensive drainage networks, and the provision of services to different areas of the city. Environmental problems and their technological solutions reworked urban social and On Progressive-era environmental reform in cities, see Christine Meisner Rosen, The Limits of Power: Greatfires and the process of city growth in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Craig E. Colten, "Basin Street Blues: Drainage and environmental equity in New Orleans, 1890-1930," Journal of Historical Geography 28,2 (2002), 237-57; Sarah S. Elkind, Bay Cities and Water Politics: The battle for resources in Boston and Oakland (Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1998); Adam W. Rome, "Coming to Terms with Pollution: The language of environmental reform, 1865-1915," Environmental History 1, 3 (July 1996), 6-28; Douglas Stradling, Smokestacks and Progressives: Environmentalists, engineers, and air quality in America, 1881-1951 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). On the growth of engineering expertise in the U.S., see Hoy, Chasing Dirt, Martin V. Melosi, "Sanitary Engineers in American Cities: Changing roles from the Age of Miasmas to the Age of Ecology," in Effluent America: Cities, industry, energy, and the environment (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2001); and especially Stanley K. Schultz, Constructing Urban Culture: American cities and city planning, 1800-1920 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), part 4. On nineteenth-century sanitary engineers in Canada, see Douglas Baldwin, "Sewerage," in Norman R. Ball, ed., Building Canada: A history of public works (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); and B. Sinclair and N.R. Ball and J.O. Petersen, Let Us Be Honest and Modest: Technology and society in Canadian history (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1974), 244-249. Schultz, Constructing Urban Culture, 190. 25 environmental geographies. Both physical and discursive constructions of nature are implicated in the modernization and rationalization of space in the city through technological networks.9 Dubbed by some geographers "cyborg urbanization," this process of spatial reorganization is seen to produce a peculiarly "metropolitan nature" out of historical interactions between non-human nature and the built environment. In this view, both nature and society are transformed into novel forms through the symbolic and physical intermingling of natural and social forces in the city. These perspectives usefully illuminate the ideological aspects of urban environmental projects, and highlight the transformative impact of urban infrastructure. Jean-Pierre Goubert, for instance, has provocatively described the changing scientific views of water and disease, and the spatial segregation of water in the nineteenth-century city: Science had identified the boundary between pure and impure water; as a consequence, water was now controlled and entrusted with the task of carrying away waste and excrement through underground pipes... [T]hose whose role it was to manage and manipulate space—architects, town planners, sanitary engineers, hygienists, chemists and engineers—created new objects and sculpted new structures, concealed the hydraulic systems and took water underground in order to protect it and to protect man from it...10 The scientific and technological "conquest of water" traced by Goubert entailed a simultaneous re-organization of society and nature, as well as affecting attitudes towards hygiene, sanitation, water and waste. In order to facilitate its management as an urban resource, a new scientific view of water emerged that emphasized quantitative representations of natural processes Matthew Gandy, "The Paris Sewers and the Rationalization of Urban Space," Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series 24, 1 (1999), 23-44; Matthew Gandy, Concrete and Clay: Reworking nature in New York City (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2002); Maria Kaika and Erik Swyngedouw, "Fetishizing the Modern City: The phantasmagoria of urban technological networks,"International Journal ofUrban andRegional ResearchlA, 1 (March 2000), 120-38; Erik Swyngedouw, "The City as Hybrid: On nature, society and cyborg urbanization," Culture, Nature and Society 7,2 (June 1996), 65-80. 1 0 Jean-Pierre Goubert, The Conquest of Water: The advent of health in the Industrial Age (Oxford: Polity Press, 1989), 253. 26 and properties. In Seeing Like a State, James C. Scott describes how planners and governments use statistical and representational abstractions to "simplify" nature (and society), rendering it "legible" and allowing it to be reordered for the purposes of human exploitation.11 Scott's emphasis on simplification and legibility is key to understanding how water came to be seen as a bundle of biochemical and physical properties that rendered certain environmental services. This view shaped the development of urban infrastructure and the structures of urban governance deployed to co-ordinate the exploitation of waste sinks at various spatial scales. Engineers and planners sought to quantify the ability of surrounding waters to safely absorb wastes in order to rationalize their use. They also created cartographic representations of urban space and nature to underwrite their visions of local hydrology and urban infrastructure development.12 The creation of urban infrastructure networks, then, may be seen as a product of divergent perceptions of pollution, the environment and urban space among various experts, planners, municipal leaders and urbanites. Drawing from these insights, this section explores how changing ideas of pollution and nature licensed certain approaches to waste disposal in Vancouver. Definitions of pollution, while referring to environmental conditions, are suffused with social concepts such as purity and risk, and are constructed through historical, anthropocentric and socially created measures of James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), especially Chapter 1. Scott's emphasis on the construction of nature through scientific perceptions and instrumentation, and quantitative representations of natural processes is echoed in Theodore M. Porter, Trust in Numbers: The pursuit of objectivity in science and public life (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); David Demeritt, "The Construction of Global Warming and the Politics of Science," Annals of the Association of American Geographers 91,2 (2001), 307-337; and Jan Golinski, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the history of science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chaps. 3 and 5. 1 12 On similar representational strategies in forest conservation, see D. Demeritt, "Scientific Forest Conservation and the Statistical Picturing of Nature's Limits in the Progressive-era United States," Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19,4 (2001), 431-459. 2 7 environmental quality. 1 3 According to anthropologist Mary Douglas, the idea o f pollution may be understood as "the by-product o f a systematic ordering and classification o f matter, in so far as ordering involves rejecting inappropriate elements." 1 4 Pollution control also involved the systematic ordering and classification of Vancouver's urban space and nature. B y designating certain spaces and waters as "pure" or "polluted," planners incorporated the region's natural waterways into their networks, creating a rationalized hydrology to banish wastewater and stormwater to the edges o f urban space. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the dumping o f wastes into nearby waters was justified by the long-held, but vague notion that running water "purified i t s e l f every few miles. 1 5 Similarly, the use of the waterways as "sinks" for the absorption o f wastes gained scientific credibility and popular acceptance in the twentieth century through the concept o f water's "assimilative capacity," or its ability, through chemical and biological processes, to neutralize harmful pollutants. Many sanitary engineers asserted that this assimilative capacity could be quantitatively measured and rationally exploited to ensure the efficient disposal of domestic wastes. Imbued with Progressive-era conservation ideals, they regarded assimilative capacity as a kind of resource to be wisely exploited. 1 6 Regional waters Rome, "Coming to Terms with Pollution"; Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a new modernity, Mark Ritter, trans. (London: Sage, 1992), especially Chapter 2; Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An analysis of concepts ofpollution and taboo (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1966); Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky, Risk and Culture: An essay on the selection of technical and environmental dangers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982); Neil Evernden, "Pollution," in Robert Paehlke, ed., Conservation andEnvironmentalism: An encyclopaedia (New York: Garland, 1995), 525. 1 4 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, 35. 1 5 Theodore Steinberg, Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the waters of New England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 206-207; Cumbler, Reasonable Use, 108-109. 1 6 As Scott Dewey and Douglas Stradling note, pollution issues often defied the categories of conservation and environmentalism portrayed in many historical treatments of the twentieth-century environmental movement. But certainly for engineers, planners, and urban reformers, the managerial ethos of Progressive conservation ideology was central to their view of pollution and its control. See Stradling, Smokestacks and Progressives; Scott Hamilton Dewey, Don't Breathe the Air: Air pollution and U.S. environmental politics, 1945-1970 (College Station, Tex., Texas A&M University Press, 2000); Terence Kehoe, Cleaning Up the Great Lakes: From cooperation to confrontation (DeKalb, 111: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997), chap. 1; Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The transformation of the American environmental movement (Covelo, Calif: 28 were thereby transformed into a kind of "organic machine" for the processing of human waste.17 In this representation, complex ecological or biophysical factors were ignored or elided, subordinated to the rational calculus of human utility. Thus, the phenomenon of polluted waters and beaches came to be defined in terms of water's social utility as a medium of waste disposal. Recurring environmental problems, however, indicated the limits to this representation and modification of nature. The unintended consequences of design choices, the failure to account for natural variability and the contingencies of historical events undermined the attempt by engineers to construct Vancouver waters as a sink for wastes.. Ultimately, too, the emergence of alternative visions of water and wastes challenged the doctrine of assimilative capacity and the bureaucratic systems of environmental technocracy erected to exploit it. Changing environmental values and perceptions of nature questioned the authority of sanitary experts. Political struggles over pollution control and sewage disposal deeply influenced environmental governance and politics in B.C., from the establishment and evolution of the provincial Pollution Control Board to the founding of the province's earliest and most successful environmental groups. Island Press, 1993), 55-59; and Martin V. Melosi, "Environmental Reform in the Industrial Cities," in Effluent America. On Progressive conservation, see Michel Girard, L 'ecologisme Retrouve: Essor et declin de la Commission de la Conservation du Canada (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1996); Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1958). 17 The concept of water as an organic machine comes from Richard White, The Organic Machine: The remaking of the Columbia River (New York: Hill & Wang, 1995). / 29 Chapter 1 Constructing a Modern Sink for Wastes: Pollution and the sewerage of Vancouver, 1889-1960 Watching the lycra-clad joggers and bobbing houseboats along the False Creek waterfront, it is hard now to picture the squalid conditions of Vancouver shorelines a century ago. The construction and extension of the city's sewerage system around the turn of the twentieth century had resulted in an increasing volume of sewage flowing to False Creek and other surrounding waters. Crude septic tanks located near sewer outfalls only exacerbated the problems: "When the tide is at ebb, the gases and odours from the tank are discharged with the outflow, but then the tide backs up the contents, there is no escape for the gases save through the manholes into the open air."1 Worse still, the receding tide exposed extensive mud flats coated in human sewage, garbage, manure, and sawmill wastes.2 Little wonder, then, that outbreaks of typhoid and other diseases were a regular occurrence in the vicinity. Like most other cities in this period, Vancouver was forced to contend with seemingly intractable pollution problems arising from its rapidly growing population and the increasing waste streams that it generated. Urban sanitation was probably the most pressing environmental question facing North American cities in the century between 1850 and 1950, as rapid urbanization and industrialization brought millions of people into novel and crowded living circumstances. The resulting problems of disease, dirt and disorder spawned a series of scientific, technical and social initiatives designed to mitigate the public health and environmental impacts of urban population concentration. Vancouver provides an illuminating case of the development of urban 1 "More complaints of septic tank," Vancouver Province, 25 August 1906,1. Robert K. Burkinshaw, False Creek: History, images, and research sources (V ancouver: City of Vancouver Archives, 1984), 21-25. 30 sanitary services because of its relatively recent settlement starting in 1886. Compared with many older cities in North America, Vancouver was relatively unencumbered with historical, physical, social and political obstacles to urban infrastructure development.3 It also enjoyed favourable geographical and environmental circumstances: with a ready clean water supply and ample surrounding waterways for waste disposal, it seemed an ideal site for the construction of capital-intensive technological networks. At least initially, Vancouver's leaders and voting citizenry displayed an enthusiasm for public works expenditures that must have been the envy of other North American cities, where penny-pinching voters repeatedly rejected the massive investment required for sanitary systems. In spite of these apparent environmental and social advantages, continual sewage pollution problems plagued Vancouver waters. These problems were rooted not in the ignorance or negligence of civic elites or citizens, but rather in the basic assumptions about pollution and nature embedded in the technologies and strategies chosen by subsequent generations of planners. Tum-of-the-century scientific notions of disease etiology and water pollution implied that the currents and flows of these waters would purify sanitary wastes through dilution and through biochemical action. Thus, sanitary engineers proposed the construction of a network of gravity-operated, water-flushed sewers to carry domestic wastes to the edges of urban settlement, where they would be discharged into the surrounding marine and river waters untreated. The use of regional waters as a "sink" for wastes was further justified by utilitarian conservation ideology, which categorized waters in terms of their utility (as drinking water, recreational water, industrial waters, etc.) and These problems are explored in the context of urban infrastructure development in established cities following urban conflagrations in Christine Meisner Rosen, The Limits ofPower: Great fires and the process of city growth in America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 31 defined pollution in terms of the loss of utility or clanger (for humans) created by degraded waters.4 Sewerage planning and development in Vancouver transformed urban space and nature in the period before 1960. Confronted by natural features and pollution problems that crossed artificial municipal boundaries, planners and politicians advanced regional solutions that attempted to co-ordinate the exploitation of area waters as sinks for waste. Just as local waterways were rationalized into a technological waste disposal network, urban governance was reoriented towards regional conceptions of space. The new metropolitan conception of "Greater Vancouver" created political conflict, however, as some municipalities rejected what they perceived as the unequal distribution of the environmental and economic costs and benefits of rationalized pollution. Ultimately, the politics and technical problems of pollution control forced the provincial government to intervene and reluctantly re-scale some aspects of pollution planning and authority to the provincial level. The creation of the B.C. Pollution Control Board in 1956 out of the struggle for sewerage in Greater Vancouver profoundly shaped future provincial pollution control and administration. Constructing a modern sink: the sewerage of Vancouver An extended system of sewerage and a supply of pure water are absolutely essential; and when these are secured... Vancouver will have utilized to the utmost the advantages of her position from a hygienic standpoint, and will owe still more to the teachings of sanitary science than she now does to the natural salubrity of her surroundings and her climate.5 Terence Kehoe, Cleaning Up the Great Lakes: From cooperation to confrontation (DeKalb, DI: Northern Illinois University Press, 1997), chap. 1. 5 The quote was written by J.M. Lefevre, first chairman of the Vancouver Board of Health, and appeared in David J. Oppenheimer, Vancouver City: Its progress and industries, with practical hints for capitalists and intending settlers (Vancouver: News-Advertiser, 1889), 32. The "sanitary advantages" of Vancouver's geography are also highlighted in The Financial, Professional, Manufacturing, Commercial, Railroad and Shipping Interests of Vancouver, B.C. (Vancouver: Dairy World, May 1891), 2. 32 This glowing assessment of Vancouver's natural amenities, appearing in a promotional pamphlet published by Mayor David Oppenheimer, reflected the progressive self-image of Vancouver's elites and the links they made between urban prosperity, opportunity and sanitation. Founded in 1886 as the terminus of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railroad, the settlement on the shores of Burrard Inlet was quickly transformed from an isolated sawmill village into a bustling new city. (Fig. 1.1) As plans and surveys were drawn up for the new "terminal city," civic boosters promoted the early establishment of urban amenities and infrastructure. Indeed, by 1889, the young city was already supplied with a secure, unpolluted source of fresh water, and boasted a new, if somewhat crude, sewer system that served the city's central district. Many observers have commented on the combination of favourable geographical circumstances and timely infrastructure planning and development in Vancouver.6 These achievements, coming a mere three years after incorporation and a catastrophic fire that razed the young city, contrasted with the drawn-out struggles over urban infrastructure development in other North American cities. Elsewhere in late nineteenth-century Canada, urban reformers found it difficult to persuade voters to finance expensive public works that might improve the filthy conditions of towns and cities. Fitful efforts at sanitary reform in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and other eastern cities were prompted by epidemics of cholera in the 1840s and 1860s, along with repeated visitations of typhoid, diphtheria and other waterborne diseases at the 6 Margaret W. Andrews, "The Best Advertisement a City Can Have: Public health services in Vancouver, 1886-1888," Urban History Review/Revue d'Histoire Urbaine 12,3 (1984), 19-27; Louis P. Cain, "Water and Sanitation Services in Vancouver: An historical perspective," BC Studies 30 (Spring 1976), 27-43; Patricia E. Roy, Vancouver: An illustrated history (Toronto: James Lorimer and Co., 1980), 32,73; Graeme Wynn, "The Rise of Vancouver," in Graeme Wynn and Timothy Oke, eds., Vancouver and Its Region (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1992), 116-118. 33 end of the nineteenth century.7 The most notable legacy of these reforms was the creation of public health boards and a modest medical health bureaucracy to oversee efforts at disease prevention and control; these represented a significant extension of municipal and provincial state power into the regulation of private and social life.8 In spite of the enthusiasm for reform, the practical achievements of sanitary reformers in the realm of sewerage and drainage were, for a time, fairly modest. Poor economic times meant that during the 1890s, voters in Charlottetown and Toronto repeatedly rejected appropriation bylaws for investments in sewerage systems. Where sewerage systems were constructed, they often discharged raw sewage into the nearest waterway, resulting in the pollution of rivers, harbours and drinking water supplies.9 The slow and uneven implementation of sewerage and drainage systems was a major topic at the Canadian Commission of Conservation's Dominion Public Health Conference, held in Ottawa in 1910. The conference was called in response to a report by the Senate Committee on Public Health and Inspection of Foods, which noted that "the public health of Canada is being considerably imperilled by the present custom of disposing of sewage, garbage, etc., into the lakes, 7 Geoffrey Bilson, A Darkened House: Cholera in nineteenth-century Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980); Douglas O. Baldwin, "The Campaign Against Odours: Sanitarians and the genesis of public health in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (1855-1900)," Scientia Canadensis 10, 1 (1986), 72-82; Douglas Baldwin, "Sewerage," in Norman R. Ball, ed., Building Canada: A history of public works (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Heather A. MacDougalL "The Genesis of Public Health Reform in Toronto, 1869-1890," Urban History Review/Revue d'Histoire Urbaine 10,3 (1982), 1-9; Colleen McNaughton, "Promoting Clean Water in Nineteenth-Century Public Policy: Professors, preachers, and polliwogs in Kingston, Ontario," Histoire Sociale/Social History 32 (2001), 49-61; Tom Davey, Recollections of Water Pollution Control in Ontario (Aurora, Ont: Pollution Control Association of Ontario, 1985), Chapter 5. Margaret W. Andrews, "The Emergence of Bureaucracy: The Vancouver Health Department, 1886-1914," Journal of Urban History 12,2 (1986), 131-55; Logan Atkinson, "The Impact of Cholera on the Design and Implementation of Toronto's First Municipal By-Laws, 1834," Urban History Review/Revue D'Histoire Urbaine 30,2 (March 2002), 3-15; Baldwin, "The Campaign Against Odours"; Curtis, "Social Investment in Medical Forms." 9 Baldwin, "Sewerage." 34 rivers and streams of the country."10 Testimony at the Dominion Health Conference confirmed that domestic water supplies across the country were polluted. Draft federal legislation for the prohibition of water pollution from sewage, garbage and factory wastes was developed at the conference and passed the Senate in 1911, but the bill never received approval from the House of Commons.11 Subsequent Conservation Commission investigations of sanitary systems across Canada documented the pitiable state of wastewater disposal in Canadian towns and cities, and the high cost in disease and pollution it exacted. According to the Commission's 1912 figures, amongst nine industrial nations only the United States suffered a higher rate of typhoid than Canada's 35.5/100,000 people. The author of the 1912 study lamented, "Are we as Canadian citizens content to allow the stigma of the second highest typhoid death rate in the civilized world to continue [to be] attached to Canada? Are we content that our beautiful lakes and rivers shall be turned into sewage disposal areas and open sewers? Not a bit of it."12 Unfortunately, this call to arms went largely unheeded: a 1916 survey listed nearly half of the nation's 528 domestic water supplies as "possibly polluted," usually by domestic sewage.13 Vancouver was far less affected by the ravages of water-borne contagious disease than contemporary Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg. A smaller population, a secure and unpolluted drinking water supply, a favourable location near large water bodies and a lower incidence of 10 Commission of Conservation - Second Annual Report (Montreal: John Lovell and Son, 1911), 118. The Commission was very active in its study of urban pollution issues, though its concrete achievements were less apparent. See Michel F. Girard, "The Canadian Commission of Conservation: Urban planning," in Char Miller, ed., The Altas of U.S. and Canadian Environmental History (New York: Routledge, 2003), 108-109. 1 1 Ibid., 168. On the debate surrounding the bill, and its fate, see Jennifer Read, '"A Sort of Destiny': The multi-jurisdictional response to sewage pollution in the Great Lakes, 1900-1930," Scientia Canadensis 22-23 (1994-95), 113-117. 12 T. Aird Murray, The Prevention of the Pollution of Canadian Surface Waters (Ottawa: Commission of Conservation, 1912), 23-24. 13 Leo G. Denis, Water Works and Sewerage Systems of Canada (Ottawa, Commission of Conservation, 1916), 136. 35 slum crowding kept disease figures comparatively low in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. Community health was also aided by progressive public health policies. The city's first health bylaw, passed within a year of incorporation, regulated the construction and operation of privies, cesspools and house drains. It also proscribed the fouling of waterways and land by "dead animals, fish, dirt, rubbish, excrement, dung, manure, offal or any other refuse," and created the posts of Medical Health Officer and Sanitary Inspector to oversee the health of the city.14 New homes and businesses were required to connect water closets to the city's growing sewerage system, and their plumbing was subject to city inspection and approval. By the end of the century, the city even began to construct public "sanitary conveniences" to discourage the increasingly unacceptable practice of public urination.15 The city's earliest sewerage system, designed by civil engineer Edward Mohun, aimed to exploit the "natural advantages" of Vancouver's seaside location. Reporting to the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers in 1888, Mohun described the city's site, atop small "eminences" and nearly surrounded by salt water, as ideal for the "rapid and economical removal of surface water" from the region's ample rainfall. Separate sanitary sewers, flushed by the gravity-fed water supply, would ensure the easy conveyance of sewage to marine waters. Since the city's water supply came from secure, unpopulated watersheds on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, sewage disposal presented no threat to domestic waterworks. Mohun, like most sanitarians at the end of the nineteenth century, assumed that the rapid removal of wastes and their adequate dilution was the main goal of sewerage and drainage works — even though the self-purifying processes of 1 4 City of Vancouver Archives (CVA), MCR 18 Sec. 30, "Public Health Bylaw 7," February 1887. See also Andrews, "The Emergence of Bureaucracy." 1 5 Margaret W. Andrews, "Sanitary Conveniences and the Retreat of the Frontier: Vancouver, 1886-1926," BC Studies 87 (Autumn 1990), 3-22. 3 6 water were poorly understood. In any case, the protection of public health from dangerous bacteria and sewer gases overrode concern for environmental degradation. Indeed, Mohun even contemplated the potential benefit of nutrient enrichment of local waters for the promotion of fisheries.16 However, the fast-growing city quickly overwhelmed Mohun's system. The primitive wooden box sewers discharged sewage via outfalls just below low water mark, resulting in widespread shoreline pollution. The extension of these outfalls to residential and recreational areas in the West End of Vancouver encountered fierce opposition from citizens revolted at the prospect of swimming in sewage-laden waters. In 1901, a group of prominent residents, led by H. O. Bell-Irving and Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper, petitioned against an outfall near the popular English Bay bathing beach. Speaking before city council, Tupper asserted "he thought that a natural prejudice would exist against the place if it were made a receptacle for sewage; the bay would become a place to be avoided, parents would not let their children go there, [and] property would depreciate..."17 In addition, the shore-side "septic tanks" (really just settling chambers) at the sewer outlets often backed up at high tide, fouling the surrounding air with noxious fumes.18 Rates of typhoid and other waterborne communicable diseases in Vancouver fluctuated in the pre-war years; a spike in the number of cases and deaths in 1910 and 1911 probably reflected 1 6 Edward Mohun, "The Sewerage System of Vancouver, B.C.," Transactions of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers 2 (1888), 243-67. Based on the commentaries following this paper, Mohun's design was relatively well received, though he was criticized for using wood (which he claimed was necessitated by the cost of importing Portland cement). See also the approving assessment of engineer TC. Keefer in the Daily News-Advertiser, 30 October 1887, Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions document number 15658. 17 "Skeptics on septics," Vancouver Province, 3 August 1900,2; "The bay threatened," Vancouver Province, 23 Jury 1900,7. 18 "More complaints of septic tank"; "Will remedy septic nuisance," Vancouver Province, 31 Jury 1906, 1; "City's sewerage system inadequate," Vancouver Province, 22 January 1907, 1; "Complaint about another septic tank," Vancouver Province, 27 May 1907,1. 37 both population growth and deteriorating sanitary conditions.'9 City health inspectors pointed to the sewage pollution of city streams and surrounding waters as a major contributor to disease outbreaks, particularly in the heavily populated districts surrounding the east end of False Creek, the rapidly industrializing but poorly flushed inlet and tidal flats at the heart of the city. The Mohun plan called for the protection of False Creek waters, but the inlet received sewage anyway, as well as garbage, manure, slaughterhouse wastes and other city offal. The False Creek area became a focus of sanitary concern as a flashpoint for typhoid outbreaks, particularly amongst crowded immigrant and squatter settlements.20 These concerns took on a racial dimension in health and plumbing inspector Robert Marrion's 1912 report. Marrion highlighted the persistence of connections between morality and sanitation, as he catalogued the unsanitary conditions of the "foreign element" in Vancouver. False Creek and Chinatown became objects of sanitary surveillance and concern, and a repository for racialized fears of infection.21 Water pollution was not confined to the False Creek or central city areas, however. Rapid C V A, PDS 11, Vancouver Health Department, Annual Report (1912), 43. This report contained the figures in the table below (Vancouver's population in 1911 was 100,401): Reported Cases of Typhoid, 1909-1912 Year Total cases Total deaths 1909. 142 7 1910 265 27 1911 212 23 1912 163 (39 imported) 21 20 On pre-war sanitary conditions, see CVA, PDS 11, Vancouver Health Department, Annual Report (1910-1912), and CVA, MCR38, W.A. Clement, City Engineer's Report, 21 January 1908. The tidal flats at the head of False Creek were drained in the 1910s to create the Canadian Northern Railway terminus and railyards. Burkinshaw, False Creek, 32-35. 2 1 Marrion's report is contained in CVA, PDS 11, Dr. F.T. Dr. Underbill, "Medical Health Officer Annual Report" in Vancouver Health Department, Annual Report (1911), 10; on the intersections of race, space and power in Vancouver, see Kay J. Anderson, Vancouver's Chinatown: Racial discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991). 38 urban expansion before the First World War necessitated the use of residential septic tanks in the absence of sewers, resulting in contamination of surface creeks and groundwater. Sewer construction could not keep up with the emergence of new suburban communities in South Vancouver, Point Grey and Burnaby as well as the addition of new territories such as D.L. 301 and Hastings Townsite. (Fig. 1.2) Septic tanks operate by allowing solid matter to settle in subterranean tanks, while wastewater diffuses through a system of pipes into a soil, rock or tile septic field, which theoretically purifies the water as it percolates through the field.22 However, much of the region is situated on poorly draining sites such as swamps or delta, or steep areas where waters seep rapidly down through the groundwater to collect in streams or low-lying areas. These factors, combined with the region's high rainfall, meant septic tanks often discharged at or near the surface, and complaints about septic overflows running in ditches were perennial.23 Condemning poorly constructed home septic systems, the Vancouver Province railed, "When we find these septic tanks lining a residence street, separated but by a few feet, and pouring their contents into the gutters on the thoroughfare, from which there constantly arises a sickening stench, we can realize how injurious this system of treating sewage must be to the health of the community."24 The problems of wastewater disposal were also closely related to the ample fresh water supply enjoyed by Vancouverites. By 1908, the city had developed the Capilano and Seymour 22 The development of septic tanks and their environmental problems are highlighted in Melosi, The Sanitary City, chap. 7, and Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside, chap. 3. 23 For early-century complaints about septic tanks in the suburban areas, see British Columbia Archives and Records Service (BCARS), GR-0132 Health Department, box 12 files 1-2 (Burnaby), box 16 file 10 and box 17 file 1 (Point Grey/Kerrisdale), and box 20 files 1-2 (South Vancouver). Vancouver was not alone in confronting this problem: see box 21 file 5 on Victoria/Saanich septic tank problems. 2 4 "Septic tanks," Vancouver Province, 26 October 1909,6. 39 river watersheds on the north shore of Burrard Inlet for a secure, municipally owned water supply.25 As urban infrastructure historians have noted, per capita water consumption increased dramatically with the provision of municipal water supplies. Although these supplies were initially intended primarily for street flushing and fire fighting, householders installed running water taps, bathing facilities and flush toilets, straining the modest drainage networks of most cities.26 Vancouver was no exception to this trend. Health and plumbing inspector Robert Marrion noted in 1912 that "nearly every householder demands an up-to-date water closet and every water closet requires a septic tank, this needs an overflow which usually discharges the excrement in solution into the channel of the nearest street or lane, thus causing complaints to be made from the people in the locality who are generally creating nuisances themselves."27 Older land-based disposal methods such as privy vaults and cesspools were also overwhelmed by the increasing volume of wastewater from indoor plumbing, and the overflow was carried into surface ditches and local creeks.28 Despite growing annual expenditures for sewer construction, pollution from sewage threatened the progressive self-image of Vancouver's boosters. A 1908 report recommending an expanded trunk sewer system was endorsed by city council, but foundered due to the high 25 Andrews, "The Best Advertisement a City Can Have"; Cain, "Water and Sanitation Services in Vancouver." 26 Jean-Pierre Goubert, The Conquest of Water: The advent of health in the industrial age (Oxford: Polity Press, 1989), 102; Hoy, Chasing Dirt, 64-65; Melosi, The Sanitary City, chap. 7. Since Vancouver's water supply was unmetered, figures on early consumption are at best estimates. E.A. Cleveland's report to the provincial government as B.C.'s comptroller of water rights estimated Vancouver's per capita consumption at 175-200 imperial gallons per day. This figure was considered high compared with consumption in both metered and unmetered American cities. But there was considerable variation noted both among municipalities in the region and between cities in North America. See E.A. Cleveland, Report to the Honourable TD. Pattullo, Minister of Lands on the Question of Joint Control of Water Supply to the Cities and Municipalities on Burrard Inlet (Victoria: Department of Lands, October 1922), 44-63. 2 7 Underbill, "Medical Health Officer Annual Report," 2-3. 28 "Fairview streams badly polluted," Vancouver Province, 25 August 1906,2; "Cesspool must be done away with," Vancouver Province, 27October 1906,2. 40 construction costs and competing budgetary priorities.29 Civic leaders responded as did many other North American jurisdictions in this period: they sought a regional solution to waste disposal problems. In 1911, leaders from four Burrard Peninsula municipalities — Point Grey, Vancouver, South Vancouver, and Burnaby — formed the Burrard Joint Sewerage and Drainage Committee, under the chairmanship of Vancouver reformer and alderman H. H. Stevens, to investigate co-operative solutions to the problem.30 The committee hired eminent sanitary engineer R. S. Lea of Montreal to study and design a sewerage and drainage system for the area. Lea, a McGill University professor of civil engineering, had assisted in designing sewerage projects in Massachusetts, P.E.I., Nova Scotia and Quebec. He was a member of a growing professional cadre of municipal engineers dedicated to improving the health and efficiency of cities through the planned construction of technological systems for waste disposal, water supply and other urban amenities.31 To plan and develop a waste disposal system for the city, Lea was forced to overcome the paucity of data on the Burrard Peninsula area. Few accurate precipitation records existed, and detailed topographical investigations of the region, only recently begun by the Joint Sewerage Committee, remained incomplete. Lea's final report, completed in 1913, offered a detailed survey of the physical and, to a lesser extent, social geography of the region, and included population 29 Clement, City Engineer's Report; "Urgent need of sewerage extensions," Vancouver Province, 31 October 1908,3; "City council's action regarding sewerage," Vancouver Province, 21 November 1908,13; "Adoption of new sewerage system," Vancouver Province, 4 December 1908,2; "City sewerage," Vancouver Province, 25 May 1910,6. 3 0 CVA, Add. MSS 1257,63-A-2, file 1, Burrard Joint Sewerage and Drainage Committee, Minutes, 1911-13. New Westminster declined to join the committee but began its own limited sewerage and drainage system around 1911. 31 "Lea, Richard Smith," in Henry James Morgan, ed., The Canadian Men and Women of the Time, 2n d ed. (Toronto: William Briggs, 1912), 645; Baldwin, "Sewerage," 225. 41 forecasts and discussions of urban morphology and governance structures.32 Hydrological investigations examined the suitability of the surrounding waters to receive wastes. Lea documented a rugged, spottily developed peninsula riven by dozens of short, low-volume streams outletting to the surrounding ocean (to the north and west) and the massive Fraser River to the south (Fig. 1.3). In what may have been the area's first oceanographic survey