This weekend marks Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's 9th Anniversary. Nine years of patrolling, protecting, loving, defending Lake Ontario.
As we head into our tenth anniversary year, we can't help but notice that a lot has changed since 2001. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper was founded on the belief that Ontario and New York State, Canada and the USA have strong environmental laws on the books. With diligent enforcement, we thought, a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future was right around the corner.
That's changed. In our ten year history, we have watched as provincial, state, and federal governments have rolled back environmental laws: the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Fisheries Act regulations, the Environmental Protection Act, the Environmental Bill of Rights, to name just a few. Where laws remain the same, "enforcement" policies often render them toothless.
Yet we are still optimistic. We still believe in law, wise decision-making, and transparency. We see renewed interest and investment in restoration on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes. A swimmable, drinkable, fishable future is still within our reach.
Here's what Lake Ontario Waterkeeper does to create a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future:
Research & Education
This is the heart and soul of charity work. Charities do not have all the answers; they ask important questions at important times, and offer suggestions based on expertise and thought. We work diligently to collect and compile data and ideas to inform decisions. Whether you want to take your family swimming or you want to decide the future of energy development in Ontario, you need facts; we try to help.
Our beach monitoring program has grown from fewer than 20 beaches in 2006 to well over 100 in 2010. Look for an exciting new beach information service in 2011.
Our cooling water research is helping to identify options to ensure any new nuclear developments on Lake Ontario do not harm fish. We have helped secure improvements at the Pickering Nuclear Power plant. Look for active contribution to the nuclear environmental assessment process in 2011.
Legal tools are the best tools for guaranteeing minimum standards for environmental protection. When someone is breaking the law in our watershed, we act. When an important legal decision is being made and we think we can help, we act.
Lafarge Cement Kiln Dust landfill: Back in 2006, Lafarge asked the Ministry of the Environment for an updated approval of a cement kiln dust landfill in Bath. Waterkeeper discovered that a creek mingled with the corrosive, toxic landfill dust and then flowed into Lake Ontario. From 2006-2009, Waterkeeper and Lafarge worked to develop a new management plan for the kiln dust. Look for an announcement about that process in the coming weeks.
Port Hope low level radioactive waste site: One of the largest stockpilings of low level radioactive waste in the country is happening in Port Hope, Ontario. The "megadump" will sit beside Highway 401 and contain about 1.5-million cubic metres of radioactive waste. LOW intervened at the first licencing hearing in 2009 and is already preparing for Phase II of the licencing process.
Communications and Outreach
In addition to all the work that we are doing, we try to help every person who contacts us looking for assistance with their own water issues, policy questions, or research requests. We try to keep you up to date on the key issues affecting water and water law via this newsletter. And we are working to build a more informal network through Twitter and Facebook. If you haven't already joined us there, please do so today.
If you are a past supporter of LOW, look for a support renewal request in the mail in the next few days. If you are a monthly contributor, thanks is on its way. And if you would like to join our snail-mail list, just send us an email with your name and address, and we will add you.
Want to support us right away? Donate online
Even easier, text the word "DRINK" to 45678 from your mobile device. A $10 donation to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper will be added to your next phone bill.