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Ottawa appoints three experts to review Montreal’s raw sewage discharge plan

Panel will evaluate 8-billion-litre St Lawrence sewage dump

The St. Lawrence River at Montreal. The Government of Canada will evaluate the city's plan to discharge raw sewage into the waterway.PHOTO: Pierre Bona, via Wikimedia Commons

The St. Lawrence River at Montreal. The Government of Canada will evaluate the city’s plan to discharge raw sewage into the waterway. PHOTO: Pierre Bona, via Wikimedia Commons

OTTAWA—After Environment Canada called a halt to a Montreal plan to dump raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River last week, the Government of Canada is launching an independent review. Consisting of three expert scientists, the panel will evaluate the impact of discharging 8 billion litres of raw sewage into one of North America’s busiest waterways.

“These experts, who are renowned in their fields, will be supported by and supplement the scientific expertise of Environment Canada,”Leona Aglukkaq, Canada’s Minister of Environment, said. “This will ensure we have the best possible and most complete scientific analysis for this project, and therefore the best possible protection for the St. Lawrence,” she added.

The independent panel stemmed from Environment Canada’s review of a plan provided by the City of Montreal—the environmental impacts of which the agency said would likely be “significant.” Environment Canada also noted Montreal did not study the specific planned discharge of 8 billion litres of untreated wastewater.

“Based on limited data, Environment Canada cannot conclude whether or not the untreated wastewater to be released will be acutely toxic,” the agency said.

The panel will investigate whether Montreal could take feasible steps to mitigate the effects of the release, what environmental risks the release could have and whether there are any other parametres or water quality metrics the city should be monitoring.

The government’s restriction on Montreal will be in effect until Nov. 2, pending the review’s results.

“Once the findings of the independent review have been submitted to Environment Canada, the Government of Canada will advise of any further action it plans to take,” the government said.

The three scientists included in the panel are Robert Hausler, a professor in the Department of Construction Engineering at École de technologie supérieure; Viviane Yargeau, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University; and Daniel Cyr, a professor at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier.

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