When We Compare

A translation by Judith Turcotte

My attention this week was drawn to an article in the Journal de Montréal on the initiative of the City of Montréal that is creating sponge parks in order to eliminate sewer backups and reduce wastewater discharges in the St. Lawrence River. In these parks, catch basins are installed to regulate the water flow during heavy rains. The water is then sent to the sewers in a controlled manner. And why not kill two birds with one stone? Plants are placed in these parks which will absorb and filter the water. These plants also have the capacity to eliminate chemical contaminants from the water. For further information, here is the link to the article.


If I had been intrigued by this article, I have become skeptical after reading it. How many times in the last months have we seen on the news the effects of heavy rains and important floods everywhere in the world? I have difficulty believing that these sponge parks will make a difference. Nevertheless, the City of Montréal intends to build around thirty in the next two years at a cost of 2.9 million for each sponge park. The city of Montréal will not be accused of doing anything; a good example of one of Ernest Hemingway’s expressions: “Never mistake motion for progress.”

Meanwhile, the City of Toronto undertook, in 2018, the construction of a tunnel of 10.5 kilometres to prevent sewer backups and the wastewater discharges in Lake Ontario and the Don River. This tunnel of 6.3 metres in diameter is dug into the rock to a depth of 50 metres. The project is known as the Coxwell Bypass Tunnel. It will all be completed over a period of 25 years at an estimated cost of $3 billion. The first phase of the project should be completed next year. With this project, the City of Toronto hopes to eliminate the discharges within 10 years. We are far from the sponge parks.

The authorities of the City of Toronto consider that the elimination of wastewater discharges in Lake Ontario is the responsibility of our generation and of the next. The situation is all the more urgent as they anticipate that climate change will bring torrential rain as we have seen in many regions of the world in recent years. Montréal assures us that the sponge parks will be able to eliminate the discharges based on past statistics. Toronto is preparing for the consequences of future climate change.

In Québec, the wastewater discharges are not taken seriously. In a recent disclosure from the Fondation Rivières, it declared that “close to 200 cities of the province do not correctly measure the discharges while it has been mandatory for nearly ten years; the Environment Ministry rarely penalizes.”

It is possible to consult the list of cities that discharge the wastewater on the site of https://fondationrivières.org/.

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