Toronto storms highlight raw sewage problem

Published: August 30, 2018

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Last week, Toronto was hit by a massive downpour that dumped more rain on the city over a three-hour period as it would get in a month. When inspecting the aging sewer system in the city following the deluge, the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper environmental group made a worrying discovery.

The group found the waterfront had become a bubbling stew of sewage and human waste. In full view of passing pedestrians, tampons, toilet papers, used condoms, and other sewage items are swilling around in the water, seemingly swept into open water from the sewer system during the storm.

Krystyn Tully, vice-president of the national water advocacy group Swim Drink Fish says bacteria levels from collected samples were “off the charts”. There is no way for knowing how much sewage comes through Toronto’s overflow pipes during a storm because the city does not monitor sewage movement in real-time.

Still, it is clear the system can be overrun, and sewage pumped into water sources like rivers and lakes. Environment Canada demands local governments show their annual untreated water numbers, but these spillage assessments are conducted by computers. In other words, they are not definitive.

Still, during 2017 215 billion litres of raw sewage were leaked into water sources without treatment around Canada.