Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Department of Maybe We're Getting Somewhere: Sewage and the St. Lawrence

The Journal de Montréal had big headlines last week about sewage going directly into the St. Lawrence from badly connected toilets at La Ronde, the amusement park, and a hotel on Ile Charron. Pretty unappetizing, and clearly things to be corrected—which officials assure us has been done. Handling human waste has been one of our biggest challenges ever since people started living in groups. Unless sewage collection and treatment is done properly life in any kind of dense settlement quickly becomes impossible: in Green City: People, Nature and Urban Places I talk about the problem so much, in fact, that one reviewer said it should be called “Days of Poo and Roses.

And Montreal for decades was a terrible example of sewage irresponsibility. Two groups, la Société pour vaincre la pollution (SVP) and the Society to Overcome Pollution (STOP,) led the fight in the 1970s for decent sewage treatment at a time when untreated sewage from 2.5 million people was being discharged directly into the rivers around Montreal.

Thank goodness that has changed. Big collector sewers and a treatment plant at the eastern end of the island have made an enormous difference. Only two beaches are open for swimming, but several more could be opened, it seems. A group who wants to see just that held a massive jump-in down at the Old Port in early August, while regular checks at nearly a hundred spots around the island show remarkably good water quality.

The situation obviously is not perfect, as the Journal de Montréal’s stories witness, but things are so much better than they were 25 years ago that I’d call this an almost-success story. When it appears that environmental problems are insurmountable, it is good to remember that things can change for the better.

1 comment:

BlueBerry Pick'n said...

we're paddling upstream...

BP to start dumping IN Great Lakes: Chicago Protests
After months of review of a recent BP plant-expansion proposal, the Alliance for the Great Lakes this week is calling for an investigation of the fuel...

OHHH a cute new BP Loves Me ad!!

BlueBerry Pick'n
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