Finding a Solution

A sign placed along the St. Lawrence River (Montreal) warns visitors to avoid contact after raw sewage had been dumped into the water. (Photo by Ryan Remiorz, Canadian Press)
     As of late last year, billions of liters of raw sewage were found pouring into Canadian waterways. "Toilet paper washes up on beaches near small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Victoria, B.C., divers report sick kelp and polluted scallops near sewage discharge pipes" (Thompson, 2016).

     Needless to say water pollution is not an uncommon occurrence in Canada largely due to the wastewater rules that were not strict enough, as well as the lack of money the city has in fixing the out-dated treatment plants. Federal regulations had required municipal wastewater plants to clean floatable substances, but they did not address the liquid substances that contaminated so much of the water. As of 2012, the federal Wastewater Systems Effluent Regulations established new regulations to benefit Canadians, the environment and require inter-govenrmental partnership. Though volume of waste water was suppose to drop as cities transitioned into using the new standards, the environmental impact was less drastic than some had hoped. The CBC investigation found that the amount of untreated waste water that flowed into Canadian waterways last year would fill 82,255 Olympic-size swimming pools. This was a shocking 1.9 per cent increase over the year 2014.

      Waste water can either be pumped directly into waterways with little or no attempt to clean it up, or carried through an old system that combines sanitary and storm sewers. However, if the waterways become too high due to an increase in rain or melting snow, the untreated water must be released into the ocean. As of recently, new wastewater management regulations in Canada are requiring all primarily treatment plants in urban areas to upgrade to a secondary treatment by 2020. According to ACCIONA, “secondary treatment uses biological processes to remove dissolved and suspended organic compounds, resulting in much cleaner effluent and reduce environmental impact” (2017). OCCIONA’s overall goal is to improve the existing water distribution, disinfection and pumping systems. This includes the replacement of 20 kilometers of piping, as well as another 10 kilometers of pipe for rehabilitation purposes. Though a hefty fee for an upgrade, this approach marks a great start towards successfully improving Canada's water pollution issue.

    Fresh water is one of the earth’s most precious resources. Individually, a good start to our waste water problem is to reduce our own risk of wasting water. This includes choosing recycled products, upgrading to water efficient appliances, and reducing our use of cleaning agents.

     For more information on the waste water treatment plant, visit ACCIONA's website to learn about their areas of activity and innovative solutions. If you would like to join their team, ACCIONA is offering positions in 30 different countries, and wants you to join their mission to positively contribute to social welfare and sustainable development.