Wastewater treatment: it will take much more than the Blue Fund


On November 26, a few days before the COP 15 on biodiversity, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the National Water Policy. This should enable us to restore the quality of the water in our lakes and rivers. We are still a long way off, but the good news is that the intensity and number of wastewater spills have shown a decrease over the past five years.

Several elected officials and municipal managers have reiterated their firm intention to reduce the number of spills and to make all necessary efforts to bring wastewater treatment plants up to standard by the end of 2030, as the Government of Quebec with its counterparts in other provinces in 2014.

However, it will take a lot of effort since our treatment plants still pollute too much! Talk to residents of Repentigny, Lavaltrie and even Trois-Rivières, who still can’t dip their toes in the St. Lawrence River because wastewater treatment plants in Montreal, Longueuil and Repentigny, among others, discharge water contaminated with E. Coli, due to a lack of adequate disinfection mechanisms.

Major Changes

To protect our waterways and their ecosystems, major and complex modifications will have to be made to 14 large wastewater treatment plants by 2030 with the addition of disinfection, increased treatment capacity and the development of basins. wastewater retention.

This is without taking into account the upgrading of 86 wastewater treatment plants whose discharges of suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demands greatly exceed the permitted limits. We must also adequately equip dozens of other stations to remove phosphorus, disinfect, reduce overflows and resolve the case of the 81 municipalities that still discharge water without treatment.

In announcing the creation of the Blue Fund last August, Prime Minister Legault recalled that his government has set aside $7 billion over ten years for municipalities so that they can intervene in their drinking water and wastewater systems. However, almost all of this amount will be devoted to replacing obsolete water and sewer pipes and treatment systems. This is known in the jargon as “asset maintenance”.

The 2022-2032 Quebec Infrastructure Plan provides for only $1 billion over 10 years, i.e. approximately $100 million per year, to improve the performance of water treatment systems. This amount is ridiculous […] In fact, at the time of writing these lines, dozens of municipalities are struggling to assess their financial needs for bringing their facilities up to standard. They all know, for a fact, that there is no money planned either in Quebec or in Ottawa […]

What will we do?

What will happen on December 31 when Quebec receives the 14 financial requests totaling several billion dollars when there is no money planned to cover this work? Are we, once again, going to postpone the deadlines, just to save time? […]

The announcement of the creation of the Blue Fund shows a new government concern for the protection of water. But what is the point of better characterizing municipal discharges, cleaning the banks, fighting invasive plants or monitoring the quality of lake water if we continue to dump our wastewater into them without adequate treatment?

We must act at the source of the problem now and demonstrate how seriously the situation is taken by investing the necessary amounts, in line with the expectations of Quebecers.

Wastewater treatment: it will take much more than the Blue Fund

Alain Saladzius, ing., FIC, President and co-founder – Fondation Rivières


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