Conditions imposed not protective of environment
Canada’s Federal government has given the go ahead to the City of Montreal to dump billions of gallons of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. This decision is the latest in a series of poor planning choices that will end with major pollution of the St. Lawrence River, and makes it clear that we must set a better course for the future.
“We are, of course, disappointed that the dumping of raw sewage will be allowed.” said Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and executive director of Save The River, “It should always be the goal of every responsible government to prevent the deliberate fouling of our freshwater. The City placed itself and the new federal government in a difficult position by failing to plan as carefully for the handling of 8 billion litres (2.1 billion gallons) of sewage as it planned for the streetscape above.”
From the beginning, Save The River has supported the citizens who have spoken out against this plan. With them we have demanded a better solution – not because we are downstream, but because in issues of freshwater, we are all connected. And while Environment Canada has imposed conditions for the release, these conditions do nothing to diminish the effects of the discharge. At best they allow the City to monitor itself and catalog the issues it finds.
“We do applaud the recognition that the perspective and concerns of indigenous people are frequently disregarded in government decision making. But with respect to everyone’s need for freshwater, the final condition falls far short.” Willbanks continued, “The way to ensure respectful relations with all groups interested in clean freshwater is to commit to building and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to keep it clean.”
Today we recognize that it’s not just the citizens of Montreal, but of all municipalities that still utilize this type of 19th century solution to wastewater treatment that need their governments to do better. Unfortunately there are many.
According to the Alliance for the Great Lakes, more than 24 billion gallons of combined untreated sewage and stormwater is dumped into the Great Lakes each year, and the Environmental Protection Agency reports 772 cities across the U.S. have combined sewage and stormwater systems, which release untreated sewage into surface water in wet conditions.
“The only way out of this mess is to have citizens come together and prioritize the unglamorous and expensive work of upgrading our aging sewage systems, and demand that their elected officials at all levels of government do the same.” said Willbanks. “We must do better to protect our precious freshwater and assure swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for generations to come.”