Earlier this week, the City of Montreal said it would be diverting 8-billion litres of raw sewage into the mighty St. Lawrence River while repairing a sewer line.
The sewage release was supposed to last about a week. Until the public got wind of the foul plan.
The Mayor of Montreal put the project on hold today. Because, apparently people don’t like the idea of dumping raw sewage into a public waterbody in the 21st Century.
This is an important moment. It didn’t take a lawsuit. It didn’t take an orchestrated environmental campaign. All it took was basic, factual information being communicated to the public at large and a genuine community belief that the St. Lawrence river should be swimmable, drinkable, and fishable for everyone, at all times.
So the project is on hold until a better solution can be found. The river has a reprieve.
If you ever wonder what Waterkeeper is working towards, it is more moments exactly like this. More moments when 20th Century thinking – “the sewage won’t be that bad, so long as you don’t swim, paddle, drink, or fish for a little while” – meets 21st Century thinking – “our waterways should be protected by default."
Update, October 3:
The reprieve was short-lived. Montreal announced shortly afterwards that it would go ahead with the plan to dump sewage into the St. Lawrence. Environment Canada has stepped in and said that this would be "unauthorized" under federal law. As of today, the sewage release is expected to start in two weeks.