Ecojustice Blog – Healthy communities Posted on September 14, 2011 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Defending Quebec City’s water quality

Will AmosLawyer

Ecojustice appeared for the first time before the Quebec Court of Appeal today representing Nature Quebec (NQ) and the Centre quebecois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) in support of a municipal by-law enacted to protect the environmental integrity of the aquatic ecosystem that serves as Quebec City’s source of drinking water.

In 2006, Quebec City officials became aware of a proliferation of cyanobacteria in Lake St. Charles, Quebec City’s primary source of drinking water for over 100 years. Scientists determined that an accumulation of phosphorus in the aquifer was stimulating the growth of cyanobacteria and specifically its toxic genus, microcystis. Deforestation around the perimeter of the lake, caused by human activity, was identified as a significant contributing factor in the build-up of phosphorus and other elements.

As part of its response to the problem, the city enacted a by-law, which was designed to re-naturalize and stabilize the lake’s embankments, thereby reducing further phosphorus build-up in the lake. This by-law, prohibits riparian property owners from undertaking activities within a 10-15 meter “buffer zone” that degrade the land and contribute to shoreline deforestation, and requires property owners to replant vegetation and remove all non-permanent fixtures in the buffer zone.

Property owners are fighting this law, but Ecojustice is seeking leave to intervene in the case to ensure that the community’s water quality, and their legal right to protect it, are both defended.

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