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.