One of her first official tasks as Canada's new Environment Minister has dumped Catherine McKenna literally into crap with an international sewage incident. The Liberal Environment Minister has approved plans by the City of Montreal to discharge 2.1 billion gallons of untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence River.
Before the first drop of the sewage could be released, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer of New York, has donned his environmental protector hat and is asking U.S. environmental regulators to work with Canada to stop the discharge.
The St. Lawrence River flows from Lake Ontario northeast into the Gulf of Lawrence. It runs along U.S. and New York State borders for 114 miles, but lies entirely in Canada downstream of Montreal.
Mckenna's sewage dumping approval caveat of asking the city to implement measures such as monitoring the discharge and improve emergency clean-up plans before dumping the waste water is not enough for Schumer.
He says the river should be treated like a single ecosystem, because birds and fish move upstream and downstream, the same as commercial and recreational fishing boats. He says U.S. and Canadian authorities have worked together before to protect the region's waters under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and should do so now.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has no regulatory authority in Canada.
"We have added conditions," McKenna says. "The situation is less than ideal. I'm not thrilled to be in this situation."
McKenna says the discharge can begin once her dumping conditions are met, and must be completed by Dec. 5.
Montreal's Mayor, Denis Coderre says the dump is necessary because the city has to temporarily shut down a large sewer that takes sewage to a treatment facility.
His discharge plan was thrown out by Canada's previous Conservative government during the election campaign after a citizen petition with 90,000 signatures, opposing the dumping was presented to Coderre and the Canadian Government. Montreal had plans to start dumping the wastewater in October.
Hopefully the U.S. and Canada can reach a positive conclusion to the issue.