Seven out of 10 Quebec municipalities still contaminating their rivers: report

River

Three years of studies have revealed that seven out of 10 Quebec municipalities are still contaminating their rivers. 

The results released on Monday by the Fondation Rivières analyzed water treatment systems of 130 municipalities, or about 15 per cent of the 846 that exist. They focused on the Richelieu, Bécancour, Châteauguay, L'Assomption and Bay Missisquoi rivers, where nearly 1.5 million Quebecers live. 

In 2018, there were 53,645 wastewater overflows in Quebec's waterways. A third of municipal sanitation systems exceed their hydraulic treatment capacity, according to the study. 

The foundation doesn’t think main sources of pollution will be reduced in the medium term due to the rate of these overflows, it said. 

The study found that the standards for sending contaminants into the environment don’t take the environment’s capacity to tolerate pollution into account over time. Municipalities have been waiting for their “new standard” since 2014, the foundation said, which is supposed to establish the maximum number of overflows that various waters can tolerate, and the treatment standards that need to be reached. 

The Foundation also said municipalities were at fault or negligent when it comes to water sanitation and they have little to fear because the Quebec government issues very few sanctions.

That being said, municipalities rarely have the expertise or support to choose the solutions best suited to their needs, and to meet conditions that would allow them to obtain grants, the foundation added. It is criticizing the Quebec government for granting subsidies to municipalities without taking sanitation priorities into account. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2020. 

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