Canada is full of crap
When it comes to sewage, many places aren’t as pretty as they seem
By GREG WESTON, QMI AGENCY
Last Updated: February 18 2010, 9:26am
While Olympic ads are pitching Canada to the world as a land of vast beauty and pristine waters, a damning internal government report describes a country that’s full of crap. Literally.
Hard to imagine in the 21st century, but a federal environmental study has found almost 400 cities and towns across the country are flushing their raw sewage directly into lakes, rivers and the ocean.
The issue isn’t just about tourists holding their nose on the Halifax waterfront as they watch what the sewage industry calls “floatables” drift merrily by.
The water communities are using as an open sewer is what they — and hundreds of others — use for drinking, bathing and food preparation.
On both coasts, Canada’s stewardship of the oceans, fish stocks and protection of marine life includes huge sewer pipes spewing the output of a few million city toilets.
And that’s just the worst 399 offenders.
The federal environment ministry has also identified another 550 sewage systems across the country — including 106 in Ontario and 46 in Alberta — that will ultimately have to be fixed or replaced.
The alarming federal study of municipal sewage dumping is part of a federal campaign to force cities and towns to clean up their act.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently announced new federal regulations are in the works, adding the obvious: “It is not acceptable that we continue discharging untreated waste water into our waterways.”
The regulations would give the worst polluters 10 years to fix their sewage problems, and others up to 30 years.
While Prentice’s plan seems more of a nudge than a crackdown, the feds are clearly hoping municipalities will simply be shamed into action.
For decades, cities and towns have quietly flushed away their sewage treatment problems, opting instead to spend tax dollars on hockey rinks and other more politically sexy projects.
Even among all the mega-billions being handed out during the federal government’s great infrastructure giveaway, the amounts being invested in sewage treatment are a drop in the toilet.
By far the largest number of offending municipalities are in Newfoundland and Quebec.
The federal study also lists three in Ontario — Owen Sound, Cornwall and Brockville, although the latter is currently constructing a state-of-the-art fix.
There are two in Alberta, although no one at Environment Canada could say which ones.
Manitoba, New Brunswick and P.E.I. have no facilities requiring emergency attention.
Quebec has 33 sewage disasters in progress with Quebec City, Montreal, Laval and Longueuil all pumping raw sewage into the St. Lawrence.
On the West Coast
Finally, there’s “supernatural B.C.,” host of the Olympics, home to some of the most acute environmental smugness on the planet, and site of eight of the most polluting wastewater systems in the country.
Picture-perfect Victoria is hoping to stop flushing its toilets into the sea by 2016. Sweet.
How bad are the worst 399?
Apparently they are even more polluting than the nation’s capital, and Ottawa’s record is truly disgusting.
In one incident, the city released over 700 million litres of raw sewage into the Ottawa River just in one nine-day period.
Ottawa isn’t even on the list of the country's worst offenders.
It’s time the poop hits the fan and not the nearest river.