At 12:01 Wednesday, November 11, Montreal will begin to dump up to eight billion litres of untreated, raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Denis Coderre, mayor of Montreal, says that in the worst case scenario, the operation coined “Flushgate”, will happen for up to 7 days. The dump will occur through 26 different interceptors, along a 30 kilometre stretch of the river, from the southwest borough of Verdun to the eastern tip of the Island of Montreal.
Kahnawake is approximately 16 kilometres downstream from the city of Montreal.
The new Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna approved the operation yesterday but the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) is, “reacting with a mixture of outrage and concern.”
Environment Canada came to a decision after reviewing a commissioned report and recommendations by a group of independent experts. They gave the “go ahead” yesterday but only after implementing certain conditions on the city of Montreal. Coderre declares that he has no problem with implementing the conditions, which include heightened transparency, a more comprehensive cleanup plan, testing and monitoring before, during and after the dump, as well as a cleanup plan which would be monitored through visual surveillance.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake sees this as too little, too late. “We are outraged that those who should have taken care of this issue during the past several years have allowed the situation to deteriorate to this point,” said Environment Portfolio Chief Clinton Phillips. “It’s beyond unacceptable.”
The issue Phillips is speaking of is Montreal’s water management system which failed to include plans if an event such as this, were ever to occur. Montreal needs to move a massive chute that funnels snow removed from city streets into the sewage system. Perhaps more shocking, is the deterioration of infrastructure that was allowed to happen. A series of beams in the sewage plant are rusting out, and risk breaking and damaging the sewage plant. In order to remove and replace the beams, the city has to clear out the systems holding the waste water. Phillips goes on to say how, “this should have been addressed years ago [and] that the lack of consultation, especially in the front end of this crisis, is completely unacceptable.”
It’s estimated that 13 cubic metres per second will be released into the St. Lawrence River which flows at a rate of 7,000 cubic metres per second. Surrounding municipalities have been notified of any possible impacts. Kahnawake, “only became aware of the situation when informed by the media.” Montreal’s mayor insists that this operation will make the population more aware of how to protect the water by educating the public on things that they should never put into the toilet. However, Chief Clinton Phillips says, “What we see in this plan is an assault on Mother Earth.”