Interview With RBC Blue Water Grant Recipient ~ Ottawa Riverkeeper

I’m proud to be working as an ambassador for the RBC Blue Water Project. RBC has made a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million to help ensure a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future for generations to come. On June 14th, RBC awarded grants to water initiatives all over the world, including one in my hometown of Ottawa! I was thrilled to be able to interview Meredith Brown from Ottawa Riverkeeper, about her organization and the impact the grant would have in our community.

CD: What is Ottawa Riverkeeper?

ORK: We’re a watchdog organization, working to make sure that the environmental laws and regulations that pertain to the Ottawa River are being enforced, and to make sure that we have strong protective regulations in the first place. Also, to ensure that the public understands what’s going into their river and what’s being done about it.

CD: Okay, what kind of things are going into the river?

ORK: Essentially, sewage from all the municipalities, in all various forms of treatment. Pulp mills and nuclear facilities on the river, who use a ton of water, pollute it and put it back in the river. There’s lots of run off from farmer’s fields. Things such as fertilizer, pesticides, manure. In terms of a water pollutant, that’s the major ones.

CD: What does the RBC Blue Water Grant mean to your organization?

ORK: First of all, it’s an honour because it’s a leadership grant too, so they’re giving them out to organizations who are making a difference in the water world. This particular grant is something I’m quite excited about because their emphasis in the next few years is on improving urban water quality, which is why I think Ottawa Riverkeeper was such a nice fit for them.

CD: Do you have a specific project that you want to use the grant money towards?

ORK: Absolutely. Ottawa Riverkeeper is working on an awareness building campaign in the National Capital Region and Gatineau to raise awareness about the amount of untreated sewage that’s going into the river. We’ll be creating a map of all the combined sewer outfalls, so you’ll be able to see where they are and on an annual basis we’ll tell you how much untreated sewage comes out of each pipe. We want people to understand the impacts of storm water and combined sewage outfalls, because we’re pouring all of this stuff into the same river that we get our drinking water from.

CD: What things can people do to help protect and preserve our water?

ORK: The one thing we are trying to remind people of, is that their drains are connected to the river. That said, everything that goes down your drain, eventually ends up in the river. Any cleaning products, personal care products, what you shave with, body lotion, fertilizer, road salts, all of that stuff ends up down the drain and a lot of the chemicals from those products are harmful in the aquatic environment. We definitely recommend looking at a more organic type of cleaning and hygiene products, to reduce the amount of chemicals going into the river.

Those are all things that you can do individually, but the other side of it is your civic ability to influence decisions as a voter. Thinking about who you vote for and knowing the environmental platforms, but more specifically, once you are in a constituency, using your voice as one vote can be really helpful.

I hope you got as much out of that interview as I did. Clean water is a necessity and these are serious issues that are threatening our supply. I urge you to visit Ottawa Riverkeeper for more information on what they are up to and, more importantly, to see what you can do to help protect our fresh water.

I’d like to say a special, thank you, to Meredith Brown, for taking the time to talk with me. I’d also like to thank RBC, for allowing me to take part in this amazing campaign. You can read more about the Blue Water Project by visiting their website or their Facebook Page. Before you go, I hope you will take a minute to check out this great video, where RBC asks a group of kids how they would protect the water. Yes, it is incredibly cute.

Disclosure: I received compensation for my participation in this project.