British Columbia

Flush with sewage success, Victoria icon Mr. Floatie retires

Mr. Floatie — the big-as-life brown plush turd who protested the city's decades-long practice of raw sewage dumping — is officially retiring with the announcement of a wastewater treatment plant.

Capital Regional District proceeding with wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps escorts Mr. Floatie to a waiting seaplane for his retirement voyage to Seattle. (Michael Mcarthur/CBC)

Mr. Floatie — the cheeky mascot known for protesting Victoria's decades-long practice of dumping raw sewage into its surrounding waters — is officially retiring.

The mascot was created in 2004 by elementary school teacher James Skwarok as part of the larger citizen group — the People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP.

The six-foot tall anthropomorphic piece of feces was a regular at events and on social media to draw attention to Victoria's lack of sewage treatment.

With construction underway on the region's new sewage treatment plant, Skwarok says it was time to bid adieu to the gigantic piece of poo.

"My friends and I have worked so hard to raise awareness and keep the pressure on," he said.

"Today is not about me. It's about the movement of caring and determined people on both sides of the Strait of Juan de Fuca who have pushed so long to get sewage treatment to Victoria."

A person in a costume that looks like a cartoon piece of feces walks in the ocean.
Mr. Floatie, seen here dipping a toe in the waters of Clover Point in Victoria, B.C., was a mainstay at events protesting the lack of sewage treatment. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Years of controversy

Mr. Floatie was not alone in his criticism.

Critics have said Victoria's long-standing practice of dumping raw sewage has dramatically altered the surrounding ocean ecosystem.

In 2015, the Seattle Times published an editorial proposing a tourism boycott of the city because of its sewage dumping, saying it was undermining work to clean up Puget Sound.

But no municipality in the capital region wanted to host a wastewater treatment plant in their district — leading to a years-long political struggle.

Then late last year, the Capital Regional District Board finally reached a decision to proceed with the construction of a tertiary sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. 

That facility is expected to be completed by 2020.

James Skwarok, also known as Mr. Floatie, says it's time to retire his alter-ego. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

In an effort to allay Seattle's once-threatened boycott — and efforts from Tourism Victoria — Mr. Floatie's retirement party is being held in Seattle, hosted by Canadian Consul General James Hill. 

Skwarok says he's happy to help.

"We're really down there to show we're taking care of business in Victoria. We're building a sewage treatment plant and it's something all of Victoria can be proud of."

With files from All Points West