Our director of operations in Quebec, Adele Michon, met the mayor of Gatineau and his infrastructure service team this morning to discuss a planned sewage release in the east end of the City in Buckingham/Masson-Anger. The release of untreated sewage will begin on Monday and may last until Wednesday. The release site is just upstream from where the Lièvre flows into the Ottawa River.
The City of Gatineau is releasing untreated sewage into the Lievre River while they do much needed maintenance work at one of the pumping station, where corrosion is so advanced that the potential for a pipe burst is significant.
Between October 24-26, every time people in Buckingham/Masson-Anger flush their toilets and wash their dishes or laundry, their polluted water will go straight into the Lièvre River without any filtration or treatment. The City estimates that they will release about 8 olympic size swimming pools worth of raw sewage into the river, however the final volume depends on how much water residents use during the maintenance period. Typical sewage contains pathogens, bacteria, viruses, pharmaceuticals, microplastics, nutrients and organic matter that consumes oxygen when released into water.
Spill duration: 48h
Pumping station located on Chemin du Quai in the Masson-Angers sector
From 24 to 26 October 2016
All residents of Buckingham and Masson-Angers
Ottawa River users from Cumberland to Rockland
Ottawa Riverkeeper is not happy to learn that there will be over 20,000 m3 of untreated sewage released into the Lievre and Ottawa Rivers. This is not good news for the river. However, after meeting with the City of Gatineau about the planned spill, we understand that the city is in a difficult position for which there are no reasonable alternatives.
Old, failing water infrastructure with limited capacity means that the cheapest and most feasible solution for dealing with sewage during maintenance is often a scheduled release directly into the river. To prevent spills, there is an immediate need for significant investment in municipal water infrastructure – something we have been aware of for decades. Especially given future climate predictions, our water collection systems must include built-in redundancy and added capacity in order to eliminate all raw sewage releases into our water bodies. When untreated sewage is discharged into rivers, it comprises the health of the aquatic ecosystem and our ability to use the river to swim, drink and fish.
We do not believe cities should be allowed to dump raw sewage into rivers. Unfortunately, there is no legal mechanism to prevent spills like this from taking place. In Canada, a planned sewage spill of this size is perfectly legal and requires no advanced permit. Crazy, right?
In the recent past, such planned raw sewage releases were common and unnoteworthy to most. However, the times are changing and people are demanding we stop treating our rivers like sewers. We saw that last November when Montreal’s “Flushgate” drew national attention. We are taking notice of a recent societal shift, recognizing how Canadians value our lakes, rivers and oceans. Most people in this country want rivers where we can safely swim, drink and fish!
We are thankful the City of Gatineau called Ottawa Riverkeeper to a meeting to inform us and other local interest groups about the spill. We welcome this transparency and spirit of collaboration and hope that it becomes a regular habit to notify the public about sewage spills when they happen.
What Can You Do?
Citizens in Buckingham/Masson-Anger can help reduce the volume of raw sewage spilled by minimizing household water use at home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Octobre 24 to 26). Together, residents could reduce by 50% the amount of sewage dumped into the river, from 20 million liters to 10 million litres.
Please consider reducing your water footprint:
- Avoid doing laundry for a few days (or get it all done by Sunday night)
- Wait until your dishwasher is completely full before you run it
- Use natural alternative when washing and cleaning around the house
Getting involved is an important step to improve our rivers’ health. Please reach out to the City of Gatineau (your councillor and mayor) and thank them for telling us about the planned spill. Then, let them know you want notifications every time the city releases untreated sewage into our rivers. That includes notice of combined sewer spills and spills from the sewage treatment plant during times of heavy rain. Citizens have the right to know, after all, the river belongs to all of us.