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WN called out for sewage runoff in Sturgeon and Veuve rivers

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by Isabel Mosseler

West Nipissing is among 44 Ontario municipalities to be called out by the Ontario Environmental Commission for still having sewage systems that overflow into waterways. In a 393-page report released November 25, the Commission highlights a variety of environmental failings, and successes, throughout the province, with an entire section devoted to issues around water pollution from existing municipal facilities. The issues in West Nipissing stem from the lagoon in Verner and the sewage treatment plant in Field. During storm events, the capacity of these facilities is inadequate and sewage overflows into the Veuve River in Verner, and the Sturgeon River in Field.

West Nipissing CAO Jay Barbeau admits it’s never nice to be singled out in such reports, but he assures the municipality is well aware of the issues and has been diligently working on them with the cooperation of the Ministry of the Environment. “I haven’t read the report… [but] their statement is that bypasses, in general, of raw sewage is unacceptable.”

The report lays a good portion of the blame on the provincial government for lack of enforcement, but also calls on municipalities to do more to avoid sewage overflows. Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner, Dianne Saxe indicates that a lot of the concerned municipalities do not have the financial means to meet the requirements. “Raw municipal sewage, agricultural runoff, toxic industrial wastewater and road salt are four significant sources of pollutants that threaten Ontario waters.... In heavy rains, 44 Ontario municipalities still overflow their combined sewers and spill filthy, bacteria-laden sewage into lakes and rivers. Combined sewers are the primary source of raw sewage discharges, causing 766 overflows in the last year. Over 30 years after banning new combined sewers, the government has still not required municipalities to take all practicable steps to stop these overflows,” reads the report. “Poorly monitored programs with too little funding and insufficient regulations have not worked.”

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