Federal and state laws mandated secondary sewage treatment for all municipal dischargers in the state of Washington regardless of need. Evidence supported the suitability of lesser amounts of treatment and the use of industrial source controls as protective of water quality, but could not be considered. The full implementation to secondary treatment is now complete.
In the 1990's, the media, environmental activists and various local, state and federal politicians from Washington State became upset with Victoria, British Columbia when they realized that most of the sewage from the greater Victoria area was only screened prior to discharge to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The perception was tainted by a lack of understanding of the benefits and power of rapid dilution, and also the mistaken impression that the excessive treatment requirements in Washington were actually needed for water quality reasons.
A British Columbia/Washington State Marine Science Panel was established by the political leaders of the province and state to examine issues of the shared marine waters. The Panel concluded Victoria's discharges were not a problem. The media in Washington State did not report this, and the director of the state's environmental agency expressed disappointment rather than relief with the finding.