U.S. Water News Online
TORONTO -- The untreated urban sewage and effluents that
flow into the Great Lakes each year are threatening a critical
ecosystem that supplies water to millions of people, according to a
study by a Canadian environmental group.
Even though municipalities in the Great Lakes region have spent
vast sums of money in recent decades upgrading their wastewater
plants, the situation remains appalling, said the Sierra Legal
Sierra Legal said in a report that it studied 20 Canadian and
American cities, analyzing municipal sewage treatment and discharges
into the Great Lakes basin, the Canadian Press news agency reported
on the report, saying it received an advance copy.
The survey graded municipalities in areas such as collection,
treatment and disposal of sewage based on information provided by the
The main problem, the environmental group said, is that in many
cases, antiquated sewage systems are incapable of dealing effectively
with the vast amounts of effluent that flow through them.
The situation is especially bad when heavy rains overwhelm
treatment systems in cities where storm run-off is collected in the
same pipes as sewage.
Some 24 billion gallons of untreated effluent enter the Great
Lakes every year through combined sewage overflows, the study found.
Canada's worst offender was Windsor, Ontario, which -- along with
U.S. cities Detroit and Cleveland -- performed "abysmally." Cities
such as Toronto and Hamilton also earned below-average grades.
At the top end, Peel Region just west of Toronto, Green Bay,
Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota, were the best performers, thanks
largely to their ability to keep rain water and sewage separate.
The report makes several recommendations, including improving
water conservation in order to reduce the flow to sewage plants, and
keeping rain water out of sewers by disconnecting downspouts and
separating storm drains and sewer systems.
"We need to change our ways and stop treating the Great Lakes like
a toilet," the report concludes.
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