In support of the City’ of Vancouver’s goal to protect waterways and the environment, Vancouver council approved new actions to strengthen the protection and reduce contamination in Vancouver’s surrounding waters.

Ongoing work on water quality in False Creek, and information gathered and assessed by the False Creek Water Quality Working Group (FCWQWG), suggested that a primary contributor to E. coli contamination in False Creek is from the discharge of untreated sewage waste from marinas, and recreational vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure crafts.

Although it is illegal to dump sewage from boats within three nautical miles of the shore, E.coli levels in False Creek often exceed standards for recreation use, suggesting that either by-laws aren’t being met or that they are insufficient to protect public health.

To address these sewage inputs, the city is moving forward with a number of actions:

  • Amend by-laws to strengthen requirements of marina operators and boaters to properly manage their waste.
  • Consult with the boating community about potential updates to the VBBL that would require marinas to provide easily accessible pump-out facilities.
  • Pilot a mobile sewage pump-out service to increase accessibility of pump-out services.
  • Acquire a service provider to conduct boat audits to identify boats improperly disposing of sewage waste.
  • Enhance enforcement for boats improperly discharging of sewage waste with measures that escalate from education and warning by the VPD Marine Unit and City’s Environmental Protection Officers to prosecutions.
  • Updates to the Health by-law to reinstate previous requirements related to water quality protection requirements for the management of sewage, oil discharge, and garbage management.
  • Amendments to encourage proper sewer management and decreased sewage dumping


Boat sewage is a source of fecal bacteria in False Creek that harms the environment and puts public health at risk.  Credit: City of Vancouver.
Boat sewage is a source of fecal bacteria in False Creek that harms the environment and puts public health at risk. Credit: City of Vancouver.


The proposed amendments and activities aim to encourage proper sewage management and decrease sewage dumping to improve the overall environmental health of our waters such as False Creek and their users/occupants.

Council acknowledged that the housing crisis in Vancouver has led more people to live on the boats.

The City will further consult with marina and boat operators about water quality and will launch a campaign this summer to inform boaters on new and existing regulations and enforcement measures.

The FCWQWG is a multi-agency group comprised of representatives from Environmental Protection, Engineering, Park Board, Vancouver Coastal Health, Metro Vancouver, Transport Canada, Port of Vancouver, and BC Ministry of Environment.


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