Throughout my travels around our city, I have the opportunity to meet many people; some of them call our city home while others are visiting from abroad. One of my favorite questions to ask them is what is their favorite attraction in Ottawa?

The answers I hear most: Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal, and the Byward Market, all share the commonality of being close to the Ottawa River.

Whether called The Ottawa River, Rivière des Outaouais or Kichesippi, the waterway on the banks of which our national capital was built has been a gathering place, the subject and inspiration for artists, and a constant source of beauty in our city’s history.

With the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 approaching, the need to protect the health and vibrance of this waterway for future generations is increasingly clear.

That is why in 2010 Council approved the Ottawa River Action Plan (ORAP), an aggressive and comprehensive plan for the Ottawa River consisting of 17 projects that set out to:

  • Maintain a healthy aquatic ecosystem
  • Ensure compliance with and exceed regulatory requirements
  • Optimize recreational use and reduce beach closures
  • Develop a long-term strategy to guide and prioritize actions

Working together with our federal and provincial counterparts we have made tremendous progress.

We have reduced combined sewer overflows significantly in recent years – by more than 80%  but, there is still more work to do.

Last year, despite our progress, 205 million litres of untreated waste and waste water still made its way into our city’s most important waterway and a big storm this June caused a large overflow.

It is troubling that in the 21st century we still have raw sewage overflows going into a treasured waterway, flowing right behind the Parliament Buildings nonetheless.

Our current infrastructure is unable to cope with the volume of waste and waste water produced after heavy rain falls which causes these sewer overflows.

To prevent this, the third phase of ORAP includes building the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel, which will greatly expand our ability to store combined sewer overflow that can then be treated and returned safely to the Ottawa River. This project would help stop almost all raw sewage from flowing into the Ottawa River.