A few years ago, when the city of Montreal dumped 8 billion litres of sewage into the St. Lawrence, I read an article that reported that the event would have gone unnoticed had it not been for a nautical association who made the information public. It took a private group to attract the attention of the media to the story. How did this story elude the reporters, those self-proclaimed defenders of the environment? I would have understood had it been good news; such stories rarely make the front page, but the dumping of such an amount of raw sewage was bad news and they should have been on the story from the start.
In the same article, I learned that the City of Montreal, had dumped similar amounts of sewage in 2003 and 2005. Environment Canada was well aware and had failed to inform the population, just like the City of Montreal who had kept the information away from the population. In a different article, it was reported by the Minister of Municipal Affairs that in 2017 there had been 62,000 occasions where Quebec municipalities had dumped raw sewage in the River.
I was flabbergasted by the information and with the idea that the St. Lawrence was still used as an open sewer, in a world so concerned by the environment. The treatment of waste water falls under the responsibility of municipalities and of the Minister of the environment of both Quebec and Ottawa; our politicians claim, during election campaigns, to want to protect the St. Lawrence, an important natural asset of Quebeckers, but, given the indifference of the population, they do nothing about it in spite of the fact that the St. Lawrence is the source of drinking water for a majority of Quebeckers.
After the air that we breathe, water is the other necessity to maintain life. However the population seems indifferent to the idea that it is deteriorating at an alarming rate comfortable with the idea that the water that comes out of the tap has been treated. Yet, on a regular basis, we read articles on the result of studies that show an increase in chemicals found in the river, the disappearance of aquatic species and various other scandals. These articles come and go without any reactions from neither the population nor politicians. Of course environmental groups react but their interventions fall on deaf ears. Too complicated? Too far from our daily lives? It was the same thing with the air quality until the population heard the alarm bells. It’s time to worry about the quality of our water sources. The smog alerts, the notices to boil our water, the banning of swimming have become so numerous that they have become the norm.
Yet, the same bunch who forget to advise us that they are dumping raw sewage in the river, rush to announce the opening of public beaches and present the news as proof that the quality of the river is good enough to swim. Excuse the expression; that’s bullshit.