Grand River sweeter than ever


A recent study released by Environment Canada and the University of Waterloo has found various levels of artificial sweeteners in the Grand River. In some areas, scientists found higher concentrations than those reported anywhere else in the world.

As part of their long-term study, scientists with Environment Canada and the University of Waterloo continually sampled 23 sites along the Grand River as well as municipal water from various household taps from several cities within the Grand River Watershed. According to the report, four different artificial sweeteners were detected: acesulfame, saccharin, cyclamate and sucralose.

According to the study, “Artificial Sweeteners in a Large Canadian River Reflect Human Consumption in the Watershed”, by John Spoelstra, Sherry L. Schiff, and Susan J. Brown, “The maximum concentrations that we measured for sucralose (21 µg/L), cyclamate (0.88 µg/L), and saccharin (7.2 µg/L) are the highest reported concentrations of these compounds in surface waters to date anywhere in the world.”

At one site, researchers calculated that the equivalent of 90,000 to 190,000 cans of diet soda were being consumed each day.

The main purpose of the study was to see how well the chemicals could be used to track where wastewater ends up. Artificial sweeteners are mostly used as sugar substitutes in diet drinks and food. They have zero calories because they are designed to pass through the human body without breaking down into their compound parts and tend to exit the body intact. After they pass through the digestive tract, they make their way into the sewer system. The goal of Sewage Treatment Plants is to break raw sewage down to expel harmful bacteria. Once the sewage water is passed through the treatment plant, it is then emptied back into the river.

According to the Grand River Conservation Authority’s Communications Manager, Dave Schultz, “Some things, the sewage plant cannot break down, including artificial sweeteners.” Schultz stated that, “The study itself was done by Environment Canada and the University Waterloo, not the GRCA however, I have read the study and it was very well written (by scientists).”

Asked if he was personally concerned with the new study, Schultz said he was not and stated that he relies on (Brantford) city tap water every day for consumption. At least three surrounding cities rely on the Grand River for drinking water including Six Nations, Region of Waterloo and Brantford. Brantford alone, rely 100% on the river for drinking water. Schultz also said that there are 30 sewer treatment plants along the river.

Nearly one million people live in the region where the study was conducted, including the communities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge and Brantford. About half of those people rely on the Grand River for their drinking water.

According to the study, the effects of artificial sweeteners on fish and plant species in the Grand River and in the Great Lakes are not known and hopefully further studies would find out the risks, if any, on aquatic life.

To read the study you can follow the link:


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  1. You haven’t seen anything yet! Wait until the sludge factory at the Headwaters of the Grand gets rolling and dumps 150,000 tonnes of toxic sludge on 14,000 acres plus right at the Headwaters.

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