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Canadian government asks Montreal to halt plan to dump sewage into St. Lawrence River

Doug Kerr
Flickr, Creative Commons
Montreal's Victoria Bridge over the St. Lawrence River.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre spoke to the Canadian media Monday explaining that over the weekend, he and city officials had re-examined their plan to release wastewater in the river. He told reporters that despite strong opposition, the plan has to continue.

“Is there a way to take some option in between? Can we use some temporary ways instead of sending that to the River? The answer is no,” Coderre said.

As the city waits for Environment Canada to have the final say on the plan, Environment Minister Leona Aqlukkaq issued a public statement Tuesday saying the plan to dump raw sewage into the river is “very concerning.” Aqlukkaq says polluting the river with untreated wastewater violates the Fisheries Act. The Canadian law is meant to protect the river from anything that could harm fish. She asked that Corderre halt his plans.  

But Corderre has accused Aqlukkaq of playing politics, saying Environment Canada has been aware of the plan for a year.  The Environment Minister is a candidate in the upcoming national election.  

Montreal Gazette reporter Rene Bruemmer, who’s been covering the story, says those national politics have come home to roost in Montreal. The opposition party tipped the media on the city’s plan to dump the sewage.

“The opposition party and municipal councilors came out and asked why is the city dumping 8 billion liters of sewage into the river? And then that's why we all perked up. And that's part of the problem. No, the city didn't announce anything and it sort of came as a shock,” Bruemmer said.

Montreal plans to dump the untreated wastewater into the River starting October 18 until the 25.