MONTREAL — Oct. 14, 2015 — Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq said on Wednesday that she will issue a temporary order to stop the City of Montreal’s planned discharge of eight billion liters of untreated wastewater into the St. Lawrence River.
The controversial plan involves a major sewer interceptor being diverted into the river during demolition of the Bonaventure Expressway. This would send about one-third of the city’s raw sewage from storm drains, homes and industry directly into the river over the course of a week.
Aglukkaq raised concerns about the proposal last week, referring to Section 36 (3) of the Fisheries Act which prohibits ‘the deposit of deleterious substance of any type in water frequented by fish.’ She asked Environment Canada to obtain further information on the plan and to assess the potential environmental implications.
“As a result, my department has determined that the environmental impacts of the planned release are likely significant,” the minister said on Wednesday. “Further, Montreal did not study the predicted impacts of this specific planned discharge of approximately 8 billion liters of untreated wastewater. Finally, based on limited data, Environment Canada cannot conclude whether or not the untreated wastewater to be released will be acutely toxic.
“That said, the city has indicated that there is a particular urgency attached to this project and that according to their evaluations this is the only viable option available to them.
“Recognizing these issues, the significant concerns of the public, and the need to ensure we have the best possible and most complete scientific analysis for this project, I have instructed Environment Canada to immediately have an independent expert scientific review of all information related to this project conducted.
“This review, which will be supported by Government of Canada scientists, would take into consideration information from the city, the province, and other scientific and technical experts in this field to analyze the current proposal as well as other options available to the city to ensure the best possible outcome for the St. Lawrence.”
Until the independent scientific review is completed, Aglukkaq will issue an interim order under Section 37 of the Fisheries Act to put the project on hold.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre described the federal government’s decision as “irresponsible and unfair.” But he said that he will respect the law, adding that the plan can be delayed until October 23. The wastewater dump was previously scheduled to begin on October 18.