In many towns and cities, when water drains out of our homes, it travels through sewers to the local sewage treatment plant. There it passes through several processes that remove all or some of the suspended solids, organic matter, and chemicals. The remaining solid, called sludge, is taken to a landfill site, incinerated, or spread on land.
Unfortunately, when sludge is dumped in landfill sites, it can leach into ground water. When burned, it can release dioxins into the air. And spread on land, it can contaminate crops.
But even worse, many Canadian towns and cities dump raw, untreated sewage into rivers, lakes, and oceans. In 1984, only 2,164 of Canada's 3,250 communities had sewers. Of these 2,164, only 1,442 had some kind of sewage treatment facility. The Halifax area, for example, dumps almost 182 million litres of untreated domestic sewage and industrial waste into Halifax Harbour every day. Victoria, B.C., dumps over 60 million litres a day into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Quebec City dumps 500 million litres of untreated water a day into the St. Lawrence River— where three million people get their drinking water.
People living in the country often have their own septic tanks and/or weeping tile systems for sewage disposal. These tanks are pumped out every year or so by a licensed sewage hauler. From there, the waste may go to a local treatment plant or be spread out on an approved land site and plowed under.
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