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Schumer calls on Montreal to halt big sewage dump

Adam W.
Downtown Montreal

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is speaking out against Montreal’s plan to dump 2 billion gallons of sewage into the St. Lawrence River next weekend.  Schumer is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sit down with the Canadian government.

Schumer said the river needs to be protected from anything that could harm its ecosystem and hurt tourism. Schumer acknowledged Montreal is miles downriver from New York state, but he said dumping sewage into the St. Lawrence could be disastrous.

“It’ll affect the birds, it’ll affect the fish that rely on the waterway and that could provide real problems for the St. Lawrence,” he said. 

Schumer acknowledged that the U.S. has no jurisdiction over parts of the river that lie entirely in Canada. That’s why, he said, he’s trying a different approach by asking for the EPA to sit down with both the U.S. and Canadian governments to work out a solution that would keep sewage out of the river.

“We have a good relationship to Canada. We’re friendly. And I believe if our State Department said, look we have to discuss this. This is causing grave concern on our side of the border, the Canadians would.”

Montreal city officials have repeatedly said construction on a major highway has left them no choice but to flush the sewers into the river.  On Oct. 18, sewage will be released from 26 spots along the St. Lawrence. Lee Willbanks, director of the environmental group Save the River, says he welcomes the increased pressure.

"It doesn’t appear as if they planned for alternatives for the sewage as well as they planned for the planters on the streets and the pretty streetscape,” said Willbanks.

Save the River has created a crowd sourcing site where anyone can share ideas on what Montreal should do with all that waste.  

“What I think we’re hoping with IdeaBuzz is that people would look at it, we’d get a critical mass of interest and thinking and the city would accept that this is the wrong course," said Willbanks.

The Canadian government has already asked Montreal to halt its plan to release the sewage.  Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre shrugged off that request, accusing Environment Canada of playing politics weeks before a national election. When he heard New York State Sen. Pattie Ritchie had publicly objected to Montreal’s plan last week, Mr. Coderre told Canadian reporters Ritchie should keep her focus on New York. Ritchie is a Republican who represents Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties.