A translation by Judith Turcotte
In my last two blogs, I revolted in the face of the number of wastewater discharges made directly into the St. Lawrence River. You will understand my dismay when I learnt that the City of Longueuil found itself as one of the principal culprits.
I live in Saint Lambert, a city part of the Longueuil agglomeration. We are not part of this agglomeration by choice but because the government of Québec imposed it on us. When abroad, I say I am from Montréal even if my home is situated in the Longueuil agglomeration. I feel primarily like a Lambertois and then a Montréaler. I do not feel a sense of attachment to Longueuil, even less, when I learn that Longueuil is the last in class with respect to the untreated wastewater discharges in the St. Lawrence River. I take comfort in telling myself that at least Saint Lambert is upstream from the Water Pollution Control Plant situated on Île Charron and I pity the cities (Boucherville, Varennes…) situated downstream from the plant.
In a recent article in the Journal de Montréal (04/2022), the journalists revealed the 20 worst environmental offenders of Québec. The majority of the environmental violations remain unpunished and less than 10% lead to punishment. The article gives us a list of the 20 greatest offenders of the environment. Longueuil finds itself tenth in line with a fine of $193,415 following the water crisis of 1995. A leak in two containers had discharged close to 28,000 litres including 7000 litres in the St. Lawrence River and, even worse, another quantity in the drinking water. The city had waited 24 hours before issuing a notice for non-consumption. The only other municipality that appears on the list of offenders is the city of Shawinigan. If only 10% of violations are punishable, Longueuil was clearly guilty of serious negligence.
Longueuil, in 2020, was responsible for 1013 untreated wastewater discharges in the river and 2022 looks bad to the extent that the municipalities downstream from Île Charron have been alerted. Work at the treatment centre of Longueuil could lead to a discharge of 300 million litres of untreated wastewater in the river. These discharges, however, will only happen if there is heavy rain. The fact remains that according to the River Foundation, Longueuil is one of the largest emitters of wastewater in the St. Lawrence River.
Catherine Fournier, the mayor of Longueuil, reassured us when she declared in an interview on radio by the morning man Paul Arcand that the discharges will only happen if there is heavy rain and she does not believe that there will be. Here is a mayor who is able to predict the upcoming weather despite the effects of climatic change. Nonetheless, the discharges conducted by Longueuil have surpassed the 1000 per year in 2019 and in 2020.
Significant work ($101 million) is planned to modernize the installations of drinking water and of wastewater on the agglomeration’s territory. These sums will be used, among others, to modernize the equipment for the treatment of wastewater. In the documents I consulted, I cannot find if the work will be conducted will reduce the number of discharges; however, the mayor is asking the citizens to reduce their intake of water during the work in order to reduce the discharges during heavy rain. If there are discharges, it will therefore be the fault of the citizens.
The mayor is not the only one who does not care about the problem. The city obtained an authorization from the minister of the Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques for the work and received, from the same minister, authorization to conduct discharges in the river. A question comes to mind: did the environment minister authorize the 1013 discharges conducted in 2020?