Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks at a press conference in Ottawa on June 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Patrick Doyle

Climate change likely to cause more sewage leaks, says environment minister

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017.

More than one hundred municipal wastewater systems did not report how much raw sewage overflowed from their pipes in 2017 but Environment Canada is only investigating two of them for violating federal regulations.

Environment and Climate Change Canada officials would not comment on the nature of those investigations since they are ongoing, including refusing to say which municipalities are involved or even what specifically the violations were.

Data provided to The Canadian Press recently showed over one trillion litres of raw sewage leaked into Canadian waterways between 2013 and 2017, including 215 billion litres in 2017 alone — a 10 per cent increase over 2013.

Environment officials attribute most the increase to more systems complying with reporting requirements. However Krystyn Tully, vice-president of the water advocacy organization Swim Drink Fish Canada, says only 159 of the 269 municipal systems that are required to report actually did in 2017.

“The compliance is so bad,” said Tully.

Related: One trillion litres of sewage leaked into lakes and rivers over last five years

Related: Backups filled Penticton home with 18,000 L of sewage, lawsuit says

She says the actual amount of leaking raw sewage is probably much higher than what has been reported, given that 110 systems were unaccounted for in the 2017 data alone.

Tully said governments are hard pressed to prioritize the problem if they don’t know how much is actually leaking out of their systems.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says the government isn’t specifically looking at ways to improve reporting rates of municipalities but, if there is more to do, the federal government would consider it.

McKenna said Tuesday that climate change is expected to bring about more frequent storms, like the flash flood rainfall in Toronto a week ago that left the harbourfront waters covered in debris from the toilets of millions of Toronto residents.

“This is a real problem,” McKenna said.

She said Ottawa has committed $2 billion to wastewater and water treatment infrastructure projects, cost-shared with provincial and municipal governments.

“Provinces need to prioritize these projects with cities but we are certainly there as a partner,” she said. ”I care greatly about the health of our waters.”

Most cities only report calculated data based on computer models of how much sewage is expected to leak when a certain amount of rain falls. Kingston, Ont., is the only city Tully is aware of that has monitors in pipes to measure exactly how much leaks and reports that data publicly immediately.

Several cities are already taking steps to address the overflows of combined sewage and storm water pipes. Ottawa and Toronto are both building storage tunnels to prevent the systems from being overloaded during a storm. Toronto’s $3 billion project will be built in phases with the first phase coming into operation around 2027, while Ottawa’s $232.3 million project began in 2016 and is to be done in 2020.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

WATCH: Cops for Cancer bring message of hope to Langley school

Young cancer survivors are traveling with the fundraising bike ride.

Langley venue of glass provides bright stage for charity art show

West Fine Arts Show runs Friday to Sunday at South Langley’s Glass House Estate Winery.

Driver of pickup stolen from Langley crashes into car in Abbotsford

No serious injuries in collision on Monday night

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Aldergrove soccer forward enjoys scoring spree

UFV Cascades’ Jhaj named Canada West second star of the week

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Most Read