The City of Ottawa is monitoring how animals and plants in the Ottawa River are affected by chemicals that remain in sewage after it is treated and discharged into the waterway, reports CBC News.
Dave McCartney, the manager of wastewater and drainage services for the city, said even though the sewage and landfill runoff discharged into the river is treated to remove most of the harmful bacteria and heavy metals, thousands of chemicals remain.
Testing is not required by the Ministry of the Environment, and few other cities do it. But “many of the chemicals [the public] use around their homes or the pharmaceuticals they take themselves ultimately end up in the natural environment and are very difficult to handle,” McCartney told the CBC. “We really don’t know what the long-term effects of these things are in the environment. Some are persistent and don’t break down.”
It’s impossible to monitor what people put down the drain, but McCartney thinks public education about the proper way to dispose of hazardous waste is having a positive effect. So far, the test results have been good: “We’re finding very very little going on – having very little impact,” McCartney said.
Ottawa continues to test the water and sediments for metals and organic chemicals and monitors the health of the organisms in the sediments at the bottom of the river for insoluble chemicals.