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sunbather by the waterEnvironmentalist Guy Drouin has won a long and lonely battle against sewage pollution by the City of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. On February 18, he obtained an injunction from the Superior Court of Québec, requiring the City to significantly reduce sewage bypasses from its sewage treatment plant.  The City and the province are also required to pay his legal and expert fees, and modest damages.

The City argued that it had operated the plant to the satisfaction of the provincial regulator. This was true; the City and the province had both been inexcusably lax. Drouin proved that the City had operated its sewage treatment plant without essential monitoring equipment for more than 10 years. As a result, its regular reports to the Ministry of Urban Affairs about the operation of the plants were false. In addition, the City had failed to properly maintain the plant.

These sewage bypasses had caused significant deterioration in the quality of Raymond Lake. According to Judge Cullen, “it is high time for these authorities to finally take their responsibilities seriously.”

Drouin did not win a complete victory. Many of his sample results were rejected, on the grounds that he had not been properly trained in the correct taking of samples, and on the ground that his passion for the issue had made him biased. The court refused to order the province to enforce its laws against the City, on the ground that this was beyond its power.

Still, this was an extraordinary and rare success, and the public owes Mr. Drouin a large debt of gratitude. Sometimes, you can and should fight City Hall.

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