Sewage plants below standard, report says

Aaron Derfel
Montreal Gazette
March 12, 1996

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Almost half of Quebec’s sewage-treatment plants fail to meet govern­ment requirements – a sign that dras­tic action must be taken to prevent further degradation of lakes and rivers, a report by an environmental group concludes.
A total of 169 plants – including the one that treats MontrealIsland sewage – have received a passing grade by the Quebec Environment De­partment. But 126 plants treating 43 per cent of the province’s sewage re­ceived unacceptable grades.
“Although sewage treatment in Que­bec has improved considerably in the 1990s, dramatic action must still be taken . . . to allow the recovery of the province’s lakes and rivers,” re­searcher Martin Nantel writes in the report by Environment Probe.
“Indeed, as the volume of sewage in­creases … Quebec’s overburdened sewage treatment plants run the risk of being further stressed, jeopardiz­ing the progress that has been made until now.”
Quebec homes and businesses pro­duce 3.6 million cubic metres of sewage daily – enough to fill the Olympic Stadium more than one and a half times, according-to Toronto-based Environment Probe, which is also studying sewage treatment in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Contrary to popular perception, treated wastewater is not “clean” and contains many harmful contami­nants. Exposure to pathogenic micro­organisms found in domestic sewage can cause skin and ear infections, ab­dominal pains and diarrhea, among many other illnesses. The Quebec gov­ernment has spent $7 billion since 1978 on the construction of sewage-treatment plants across the province.

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