‘River guardians’ search for source of microplastics fouling Rivière Magog in Eastern Townships

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Over the previous couple of weeks, Gabriel Provencher-Pharand has been criss-crossing the Rivière Magog in a small motor boat, looking out for tiny bits of plastic which have washed up on the banks. 

The Magog flows from Lake Memphremagog, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, via Lac Magog and previous town of Sherbrooke on the Lac des Nations earlier than emptying into the Rivière Saint-François, a tributary of the St. Lawrence River.

“We must act,” stated Provencher-Pharand, a technician with the freshwater environmental group Regroupement des associations pour la safety de l’environnement des lacs et des bassins versants (RAPPEL). 

“When you see geese in areas the place there are microplastics, you surprise if it is moving into their system and if it is affecting them.”

For the previous 12 years, RAPPEL has partnered with town of Sherbrooke as its “river guardian.”

Concerns raised by residents in regards to the accumulation of microplastics in the water system prompted town final July to ask RAPPEL to map its findings and examine it to an analogous endeavor in 2018. 

The present challenge is just not but completed, however Provencher-Pharand says he has already recognized 15 troublesome spots.

“We discovered plastics of completely different sizes, of differing kinds,” he stated.

These particles turn out to be entangled in the aquatic vegetation and are troublesome to take away from the water, he stated. That is why RAPPEL’s consultants say it’s important to discover the source of the contamination.

Hunting down the source

Sherbrooke spokesperson Jean-Daniel Duval stated in an announcement that as a result of it entails industrial waste, the microplastics file was turned over to the provincial Environment Ministry in 2019, although town has continued to observe up with the ministry in the following years. 

In 2020, two years after RAPPEL first alerted Sherbrooke to the invention of microplastics contamination in the river, the ministry cracked down on Plastimum, an area plastic recycling firm.

The ministry held Plastimum accountable for discharging microplastics into the storm sewer system, which empties into the river.

The firm publicly denied any duty for the improper disposal of plastic waste, however nonetheless, it took corrective measures to fulfill the ministry’s calls for.

In May 2021, the ministry issued a 3rd discover to the corporate for the storage of non-compliant uncooked supplies. The corrective measures put in place by Plastimum to stop any additional launch of plastic into the surroundings are nonetheless below evaluate, Radio-Canada has realized.

The head of Plastimum was unavailable for an interview. 

The microplastics acquire in the algae and different aquatic vegetation, making cleansing it up a tedious activity, say consultants with RAPPEL, the group working as ‘river guardians’ with town of Sherbrooke, Que. (Radio-Canada)

This August, the ministry recognized one other firm linked to the discharge of microplastics however has not made that info public. The ministry says the state of affairs, together with what actions have to be taken to appropriate it, are nonetheless being evaluated.

Residents level finger at industrial park

One location RAPPEL has already raised as a priority in its present mapping challenge is on the mouth of a small stream that crosses via a Sherbrooke industrial park earlier than it empties into the Rivière Magog.

Gilles Lemelin, a member of an affiliation of residents who reside alongside the river, stated he has little doubt that the plastic comes from the economic park . 

He just lately photographed the microplastics he discovered accumulating close to the shoreline after rain drove water via the storm drains into the stream after which the river, he stated. 

Valérie Courtemanche, who additionally lives close to the river, stated she noticed giant quantities of plastic on the banks all summer time.

“There is plastic in every single place, in every single place, in every single place,” she stated.

Gilles Lemelin, who belongs to a bunch of residents dwelling close to the river, says he’s positive the plastic is coming from a Sherbrooke industrial park. (Radio-Canada)

Courtemanche is amongst volunteers who choose up what plastic they’ll, however every time a motorboat passes, the propeller churns up algae with bits of plastic clinging to it, she stated.

“It would not come from the lake. It would not come from upriver. It is obvious that it comes from the small stream that enters the river at this spot,” stated Courtemanche, indicating the stream that flows via the economic park.

Courtemanche stated residents have made many complaints to town, however nothing will get carried out.

“We suppose it is an actual disgrace. There is life in this river. There are fish,” she stated. “Our surroundings is much less nice as a result of there are 1000’s, 1000’s, 1000’s of items of plastic.”

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