Part 2: Water, water everywhere – toilets and nuclear

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Science informs us that our human bodies are roughly 60-70% water – and that this figure fluctuates throughout our lifetime. (Interestingly, some say that a baby’s body is 78% water…)

Regardless of percentage quibbles, water is essential to life. And not “just” human life. Water is essential for all life on Earth.

Peculiar, then, isn’t it, that some of us have such disregard for its cleanliness. We take water for granted – at our peril.

Water advisories

The Outaouais is full of villages and homes where water isn’t clean enough to drink. Have you ever had a “boil water advisory” thrust upon you? Have you ever had to depend upon bottled water?

Unfortunately, for readers from Wakefield to Gatineau and Aylmer, Quyon to Shawville, Fort-Coulonge and up the Pontiac, the answer is yes.

What a tragic state of affairs.

Polluting our bodies

During this pandemic, many of us have become aware that wastewater treatment plants have been testing for the presence of the Covid virus in our fecal matter and urine. Results have informed our pandemic healthcare initiatives and protocols.

Beyond this pandemic though, how we treat our water is shockingly cavalier. People toss pharmaceuticals down their toilets and poof! Pills disappear.

No worries, eh?

Drug water

Worry. Where do you think your toilet water goes? It contaminates surface and ground water. And our wastewater treatment systems are not sophisticated enough to remove all the contaminants in medications.

“Some medications, such as hormones and antidepressants, include endocrine disrupting compounds, which interfere with the reproduction and normal growth of many aquatic species, such as frogs and fish.” (bit.ly/3MHwlID)

Not only are drug pollutants disrupting wildlife and ecosystems, but they are also affecting human life.
Chalk River Nuclear

This newspaper stands solidly opposed to the development of the large Near Surface Disposal Facility (NSDF) planned for Chalk River by the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). From publisher-emeritus and columnist Fred Ryan to former Journal editor Allyson Beauregard, to me as environmental columnist — many of us stand in solidarity with those who oppose the development of the radioactive waste disposal site.

I am opposed because of the site’s proximity to the Ottawa River (within a kilometre) plus our region is prone to earthquakes. Now, I am not hallucinating concerns regarding seismic activity. The federal government’s Natural Resources Canada site informs us of the Western Quebec Seismic Zone: “The pattern of historical seismic activity recorded by the Canadian seismograph network since the beginning of the century shows the earthquakes concentrating in two sub-zones: one along the Ottawa River and the second along a
more active Montreal-Maniwaki axis.” (It’s a fascinating cautionary read: bit.ly/3J0ezhb)

Concerns are real and echoed by our Pontiac representatives: On December 15, 2021, the 18 mayors of the MRC Pontiac adopted a resolution urging the federal government to move the proposed NSDF further from the Ottawa River.

Algonquin First Nations are opposed: Kabaowek First Nation Chief Lance Haymond from Temiscaming denounced CNL in his

Dec. 16, 2021, Letter to the Editor published in the Aylmer Bulletin. He noted that CNL naming a new building Minwamon (‘clear path’ in the Algonquin language) incorrectly implies First Nations support.

“Kebaowek First Nation is one of eleven representing the Algonquin Nation in Canada. Their land has never been relinquished through treaty; they were never consulted when the nuclear facilities at Chalk River were established in the 1940s. Faced with many significant nuclear projects and radioactive waste legacies — on Algonquin territory — Kebaowek First Nation has objected to continuing the nuclear industry on their lands without appropriate accommodation on their rights.”

Flushed with pride?

Some things we can inform ourselves about and lobby against. Such as nuclear.

But many actions we can, ourselves, stop doing.

It’s up to us, frankly. Are you ready to change your ways? Let’s change for the better, now.

Katharine Fletcher is a freelance writer, author, and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com and view her art at facebook.com/KatharineFletcherArtist/