His legs had wasted away. Numbness in his fingers made it impossible for him to write or button a shirt; he opened bottles of painkillers with his mouth. He was losing sight in his right eye; the hearing in one ear was already gone. He’d leave his home only every two weeks, strapped on a gurney to be transported to the Queensway Health Centre for an intravenous immunoglobulin treatment. He went for the last time in late April.
Nearly 120 million cubic metres of untreated sewage and runoff entered Canadian waterways in 2016, StarMetro has learned.
That’s roughly the same amount of water that roars over the edge of Niagara Falls over the course of 12 hours — except it’s not whitewater spewing from these pipes. It’s murky, brown and a little bit chunky.
For the past 14 years, Colville Lake, N.W.T. has been under a boil water advisory.The reason isn't due to lack of access to a water treatment plant or proper training to operate it — the community doesn't bother to send water samples to the territorial government for sampling because residents believe their water is clean enough to drink straight from the lake.
Canada has an abundance of water for its size: It has 0.5 per cent of the world’s population but seven per cent of the world’s renewable freshwater supply.
From a global perspective, most Canadians are lucky, but the messages that emanate from academic and popular literature often paint an unsettling picture.
"The discharge limits of tritium are 10,000 times below the actual dose limits that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requires us to meet," said Meggan Vickerd, the reactor's decommissioning manager.
But just what makes an "acceptable" limit is a matter of debate.
Ole Hendrickson, a scientist and researcher for the group Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, questions the safety of the discharge limits for the facility.
Amber Sears removes a glass stopper from a beaker, gives the contents a swirl and takes a whiff.
The 23-year-old is a water lab technician and sniffing is her job.
"You're smelling for musty and earthy smells," Sears said. "That's what happens when the spring runoff happens, when the vegetation comes into the water."
She checks the scent wheel which offers descriptors like fishy, swampy and flowery. The wheel helps testers like Sears circle in on the aromatic analysis of our drinking water.