Montreal Sewage Dump

We share your anger about the 8 billion litres of untreated sewage flowing into the St Lawrence River over the next 7 days. We think it’s disgusting. The silver lining of this situation is the number of people taking notice and speaking up to end the practice of dumping untreated sewage in our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Written by Meredith Brown

It is easy to criticize Montreal’s dumping of untreated sewage into the beautiful and significant St. Lawrence River:  home to a myriad of aquatic species like belugas and eels and a playground for people who love to surf, sail, paddle and swim. Oh yes, and don’t forget that many downstream municipalities draw their drinking water from the St. Lawrence River. We can see why it’s so easy to criticize this decision but it’s not so easy to find feasible solutions. Investing in out-of-sight sewage infrastructure is rarely a legacy politicians aspire to.

Finding solutions is not a simple task and solutions don’t come easy or cheap at the 24th hour. Although we were never given an opportunity to assess alternatives to dumping the sewage, you can rest assured other smart engineers did. Unfortunately incentives to find alternative solutions are practically non-existent when the city knows they will almost certainly receive a permit to pollute (officially called an authorization) from the regulators. In this case, our Federal Environment Minister has reluctantly given Montreal a temporary permit to pollute.

When the news of Montreal’s sewage conundrum went viral, this Riverkeeper was happy. Happy about the groundswell of support to act responsibly and stop treating our rivers like sewers.

We need change and we need vigilance. We need persistence from people like you who believe in Canadians’ rights to safely swim, drink and fish in our beloved lakes and rivers.

Fixing municipal wastewater infrastructure requires a municipal champion, ideally your mayor, to make this a spending priority. Our engineers know what to do, they just need their marching orders. Once a municipality is determined to stop dumping untreated sewage into their community’s playground they need to bring the province and the federal government to the table to share costs.


Montreal Sewer - Andrew Emond / Under Montreal

“Pipedreams.” Montreal Sewer – Andrew Emond / Under Montreal


Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Ottawa Riverkeeper would like to see this stinky incident serve as a catalyst for change. It has shed light on the roles of our three levels of government when it comes to managing water pollution. Quebec and Canada must finalize their equivalency agreement to regulate wastewater effluent so the role of the federal government is crystal clear.

Public pressure is critical to move our elected officials so they make it a priority to upgrade our outdated wastewater infrastructure. It is possible to end the dumping of raw sewage in our waters, but so far we just haven’t been willing to pay. Take the time to understand where your sewage goes. Does your town or city dump untreated sewage into a waterbody? If you live in Ottawa or Gatineau, the answer is yes!

Let your mayor, your Premier and our Minister of Environment and Climate Change know that they must put an end to polluting your river with raw sewage. It is 2015 – time for real change.

Stand up for your watershed by supporting our work to end sewage dumping in our rivers.