Raw Sewage and Untreated Waste Water Polluting Canada's Water

by skeeler on November 10, 2017 - 2:54pm

             Raw sewage and untreated wastewater is polluting Canada’s pristine rivers, lakes, and oceans at alarming rates – 205 billion liters in 2015 to be exact. It is one of the biggest issues of pollution that Canada is facing in present day. This number is in no way decreasing and in some cases it is increasing. Old systems of water treatment have not been improved in many years, due to limited funding and municipalities prioritizing other local projects. New goals set by the government state that municipalities must do a secondary water treatment for the absolute removal of solid and organic waste that is polluting our waters; this does not have to be met till 2020 and if these local governments can not reach that then they have till 2030 or even 2040 to comply. The previous Conservative government provided some money to municipalities in order to improve their waste water systems, however in many cases it was not enough money or the municipalities chose to build roads instead of sewage plants. The new Liberal government has set aside about 2 billion for upgrades and this is just the first step of their plan. However this is still insufficient, a town of just 4000 people is estimated at 22 million to upgrade the old waste treatment abilities. This untreated municipal water is polluting waterways because these old systems function so that both sanitary and storm sewers are combined; this meaning if there is an influx in water from rain or snow melt, they must release the untreated water into waterways so that it doesn’t overflow into households.

            The problem with this is that with climate change comes more rain and extreme weather conditions – meaning if this isn’t fixed for the future we could see an even greater increase in pollution. I believe a lot of the issue comes from limited knowledge on the problem from the public’s perspective. If more people understood the extent of pollution rushing into our waterways there may not be such an undermining of the issue and avoidance of fixing the problem by our municipal governments. Citizen science may be a first step in the right direction, forcing the hand of the governments to prioritize the issue and thus use the intended funding. We saw in Tonawanda, New York that the air quality was an issue and regulations were not being met; the concerns of the public led the governments to creating stronger regulations and enforcing laws regarding the chemicals. This is not just a local municipal government issue though; it is the job of the federal government to force the hands of these small governments into obeying and complying with new technology to ensure the reduction of pollution. I think this must stem first from publics concerns and participation as well as co-management of the resource that makes Canada so unique.

            Although cheap, water is a huge resource and commodity in Canada – thus we may also need to look at neoliberal environmental management. We are very privileged in Canada to have such a large quantity of freshwater resources as well as resources coming from our oceans. Due to this there has been much debate on the privatization of our resources, and if we should be exporting it to other countries to make profit. I believe that the market for freshwater will increase as climate change and pollution impacts the availability of this resource, especially in other countries. Due to this we need to see it as a resource that us as human need to live and use, but also as something that cannot be used up so quickly to irreversible conditions. Seventy percent of the world is covered in water, of this only one percent is available freshwater. We need to create provisions and regulations to force the municipal governments to make change so that we do not pollute anymore of this precious resource, and we can have it for future generations and natural ecosystems as well.

News Article:

Thompson, E. (2016, Decemeber 12). Billions of Litres of Raw Sewage, Untreated, Waste Water Pouring into Canadian Waterways. Retrieved Novemeber 07, 2017, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/sewage-pollution-wastewater-cities-1.3889072


McWhinney, J. E. (2013, May 24). Water: The Ultimate Commodity. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from https://www.investopedia.com/articles/06/water.asp

Roth, R. (2017). Lecture notes “Public Participation and Co-Management”. Management of the Biophysical Environment GEOG3210, University of Guelph, October 18, 2017.

Roth, R. (2017). Lecture notes “Neoliberal Environmental Management”. Management of the Biophysical Environment GEOG3210, University of Guelph, October 31, 2017.

                 Youtube. (2013, May 09). Retrieved November 09, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZKxn1nioNA