Find out if your community has a sewage treatment facility. Make an appointment to visit the plant for a guided tour. Before you go, draw up a list of questions to ask. How old is the plant? How much sewage passes through it weekly, yearly? What sort of process is used, and how does it work? How is the sludge disposed of, and where does the processed water go next?
Appoint someone in your group to take down the answers. Your teacher or leader can help. Don't settle for vague or confusing replies. Just keep asking the question until you clearly understand the answer.
Write a report on your findings and make a presentation to your school. Your community may already handle its sewage properly—laws on waste disposal are different in every province and territory.
Write a thank-you note after your visit. Include some of your observations, too. Send carbon copies to your local council and appropriate government departments.
If your town has no sewage disposal, or if the plant is old and inadequate, organize a campaign for change. Talk to local wildlife biologists about the situation. Have fish or waterfowl numbers been dropping? How exactly is wildlife or its habitat affected? Make a presentation to your local municipal council about your findings. Councillors are probably well aware of the problem, but strong public opinion will help hurry along the necessary changes.
Talk to local media reporters. They may have done articles over the years about wildlife and water quality problems. Collect every shred of evidence you can find on the subject and keep it in a file for future reference.
Write letters to appropriate government agencies, too. There is a department responsible for water quality issues in your province or territory. Start a petition. Circulate it at school, at home, and on the main street of your town.
Most of all, don't give up. Lobbying for change is a long, slow process- sometimes it takes years. But you can start the ball rolling. Instead of standing by helplessly, you can be part of the solution! Few governments will spend money on pollution controls unless they are forced to by a very insistent public.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Do you know where toilet and sink water from your home or school goes?
Many people flush chemicals down the toilet or sink, not realizing what happens next. Sewage treatment is meant for household wastes—not for toxic contaminants such as heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. These are not removed during treatment. Instead, they end up back in our water supply, where they can cause deadly problems for wildlife or humans.
Sometimes chemical wastes from industries are also dumped into municipal sewer systems. In Ontario alone, about 12,000 industries do just that!
You may feel powerless to do anything about it. But there is much you can do to start changing this sad situation.
Did you know that some boats still dump their toilets into the oceans? When you flush a toilet on a plane or train, where do you think the waste goes? Why not find out by writing or phoning the appropriate authorities? Are you satisfied with what you discover? Maybe you can come up with some positive action ideas to present to the government.
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