St. Lawrence sewage dump: 7 tips to limit your impact

From reducing the number of daily flushes to saving your laundry for later, there are concrete measures Montrealers can take to help make the St. Lawrence sewage dump less harsh on the environment.

How to make 8 billion litres of untreated wastewater in the river a little less gross

8 billion litres of sewage will be dumped into the St. Lawrence if Montreal gets a go-ahead from Environment Canada. (iStock)

Close to half a million people in the island of Montreal, plus thousands of workers coming into the city from the suburbs, will have their wastewater directly dumped into the St. Lawrence River, if a plan to dispose of eight billion litres of raw sewage goes ahead.


But each person and business has the power to limit — if modestly — the amount of pollutants going into the river. Here are some tips to do just that from Alexandre Joly, general director of Comité ZIP Ville-Marie, an advocacy group for the St. Lawrence, and Simon Octeau of the Regroupement des éco-quartiers.

Don't throw garbage into toilets and sinks

No wet wipes down the toilet. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Some people have developed the habit of throwing all sorts of waste down the toilets, like cotton swabs, dental floss, condoms and tampons. Most of these products should go in the trash.

Expired drugs should not be flushed down the toilets, either. These can be dropped at pharmacies, which dispose of them properly. Paintbrushes shouldn't be washed in the sink or the tub, either. Hazardous household waste can be discarded at ecocentres.

Cooking grease is often poured down the sinks, but this can clog sewer lines. Instead, it should be left to cool, then tossed in the garbage or compost bin. As for food, avoid using the sink's garbage disposal between Oct. 18 and 25.

Don't use storm drains as garbage

(CBC News)

Garbage like cigarette butts, gum, plastic wrappers and dead leaves should never be thrown down sewage drains — not during the sewage dump days, not ever.

Also, be careful around these drains. Water treatment plants the world over find all sorts of useful things in the wastewater, like cellphones, glasses and dentures. And between Oct. 18 and 25, these will all go into the river.

Reduce water use

(CBC News)

All the water from sinks, showers and toilets will go straight to the river. Simple gestures like turning off the shower when soaping up or the faucet when brushing teeth can reduce the total volume dumped.

Dedicated residents can go further and reuse water. For example, keeping the water used to wash vegetables in a bowl, and use it to wash your hands later.

Stopping leaks can also save hundreds of litres of water a day.

Those who can might also consider showering every two days during the dumping period, or taking showers instead of baths, which use up twice as much water.

Optimise flushing

(Laurent Lavì Lazzeresky, Flickr cc)

Montreal's plan to dump the raw sewage has been baptized #FlushGate on social networks. During the dumping days, the waste of half a million people will join the fish in the river. One simple gesture to limit the damage is to refrain from flushing after each and every trip to the loo.

Another technique to reduce water usage is placing a filled water bottle in the toilet tank to reduce the volume of water in the tank.

Limit washing

Limit laundry during the dumping days, if possible. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

Avoid washing your car between Oct. 18 and 25. The dirty water will be dumped into the river. Likewise, you can plan to not do any laundry between those days.

Don't empty the pool

It would be better to empty the pool during Thanksgiving weekend. Otherwise, hundreds of litres of chlorinated water will go into the river.

Use biodegradable products

Give biodegradable products a try. (Associated Press)

Those wishing to reduce their use of pollutants can use biodegradable cleaning products. These can be identified by labels in the back. Look for a logo that says "OECD test 301." They are reportedly better for the user's health, as well.

Translated from a report by Thomas Gerbet, Radio-Canada


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?