June 1 usually marks the start of the swimming season in Ontario, but most Waterloo region residents will not flock to the Grand River for a dip. And with good reason. A new Waterkeeper report finds that the Grand River is frequently unsafe for human contact. Waterkeeper also reveals that local authorities show a surprising lack of interest in making the river safe and accessible for all residents.
Waterkeeper's President, Mark Mattson, has written to the Ministry of Environment about water quality problems in the Grand River and nearby Laurel Creek. Mattson, who is also an environmental lawyer, believes that the Grand River and Laurel Creek are failing to meet Ontario?s water quality objectives. The objectives are scientific standards designed to protect human and aquatic life.
Waterkeeper also found that the City of Waterloo has rejected Ontario?s objectives in favour of American standards that are 20 times lower. As a result, residents living near the Grand River may see less environmental protection than other residents in Ontario.
?The Grand River is an amazing asset,? says Mattson. ?It deserves the full protection of Canadian environmental law.?
Mattson will deliver Waterkeeper?s report on the Laurel Creek and Grand River to the City of Waterloo on Monday, May 31. The report concludes:
Under Canadian environmental law, there is no such thing as a ?working river? and there are no second-class water users. All waterways are protected by the same standards, and the expectation is that every river, lake, and creek will be clean enough for body contact recreation and for the protection of aquatic life. By adopting foreign standards which are twenty times lower than our own, officials fail to protect urban waterways for the people of Waterloo Region; further, they fail to adequately safeguard the health of the plant and animal life which rely on these waterways for survival.
13 of 15 samples did not meet Provincial Water Quality Objectives;
The highest level of bacteria contamination was found downstream from the sewage treatment plant after a heavy rainfall, 67 times higher than PWQO;
The highest level of bacteria during dry weather was found in downtown Waterloo, 43 times higher than PWQO;
Bacteria contamination increases significantly after a heavy rainfall;
The City of Waterloo has chosen to adopt water quality standards twenty times lower than the Provincial Water Quality Objectives.
Waterkeeper & President
(416) 861-1237, cell (416)579-1731