News Feature | December 16, 2016

Canada Reaches 200 Billion Liters Of Untreated Wastewater Discharge

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

lake canada reg new

Despite regulations to crack down on raw sewage discharged into waterways, Canadian rivers and streams still took in billions of liters of untreated waste this year.

“More than 205 billion liters of raw sewage and untreated wastewater spewed into Canada's rivers and oceans last year...despite federal regulations introduced in 2012 to try to solve the problem,” CBC News reported.

The figures from Environment Canada, a government department, show that although the numbers improved between 2013 and 2014, last year the problem got worse again, according to the report.

“Toilet paper washes up on beaches near small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Victoria, B.C., divers report sick kelp and polluted scallops near sewage discharge pipes,” the report said.

The amount of untreated wastewater, including raw sewage and runoff, that went into the Canada’s oceans and rivers would fill nearly 83,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, the report said. It is an uptick of 1.9 percent over 2014. That's despite rules adopted four years ago to reduce the volume, the report said.

“The rules require municipalities to do secondary treatment to remove not just solid waste but also dissolved organic material. The worst offenders have until 2020 to comply. Municipalities that were doing some water treatment but didn't meet the new standards, have until 2030 or 2040,” the report said.

Elaine MacDonald, an engineer with Ecojustice, weighed in, per Radio Canada International: “These numbers are still really alarming. There’s obviously a lot of untreated waste water that’s still entering the environment.”

Canadian sewage dumping is a concern for Americans, as well. After a deal was reached in September to build a new sewage-treatment plant in Victoria, B.C., leaders in Washington State praised the development. “Washington leaders [had] pleaded with Canadian officials for years to address the problem,” according to a piece by The Seattle Times editorial board.

“Washingtonians appreciate the progress and commitment to protecting our shared waters,” the editorial board wrote.

Image credit: "Herbert Lake / Canada," Eric Bauer © 2012, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/