Toronto residents need alerts when City dumps sewage into Lake Ontario, argues Waterkeeper in new legal application (Press Release)
On the anniversary of the 2013 flood, Toronto environmentalists file request with the Ontario government to protect public health
(Scroll down for synopsis, tweets, photos)
July 8, 2014 (Toronto) -- The City of Toronto has a sewage problem that could affect public health says Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. The organization’s co-founders filed a legal application with the Province of Ontario today asking the city to issue alerts when it bypasses sewage into public waterways.
The submission, delivered to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario on Monday, describes how the city bypasses sewage about three times a month at the Humber and Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plants. It describes how Toronto residents paddle, sail, fish, and boat in areas where bypasses are taking place - they are usually unaware that the water may pose a threat to their health because the city does not alert the public.
“It’s a simple request,” says Waterkeeper Mark Mattson. “The City should issue a sewage bypass alert, just like it issues cold weather alerts and heat advisories. This informs residents when there is a risk to their health.”
Mattson’s organization, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, has set up a registry on its website (http://www.waterkeeper.ca/i-love-torontos-water). People who paddle, surf, sail, or boat on the Toronto waterfront can identify themselves as recreational water users.
“We are trying to show the city that Torontonians love their waterfront. Residents care about their health and the environment. They just want to be better informed,” says Mattson.
The submission argues that Toronto residents will be more likely to support much-needed infrastructure upgrades if they understand the problem better.
The Environmental Commissioner’s office has 10 days to forward the request to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray. The Minister then has 60 days to decide whether or not to conduct a review. If successful, the application would amend the operating approvals for the Humber and Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plants to ensure that the public is notified when bypasses occur.
Human contact with sewage-contaminated water can result in serious health concerns including eye, ear, nose, throat infections. If any contaminated water is consumed, it can cause stomach disorders and rashes, and even result in typhoid fever, hepatitis, or dysentery.
To minimize the risk to their health, individuals should avoid contact with contaminated water in the days following a bypass.
Toronto should start alerting residents when it dumps sewage into public waters, says a legal request from staff at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Bypasses happen about three times a month, all year round. Sewage in the water means that people who are paddling, surfing, and boating could get sick - and they don’t even know it. Waterkeeper realized how bad the problem was after the massive storm one year ago knocked out power at the Humber River treatment plant. Sewage flowed into Lake Ontario for 28 hours and the city failed to alert residents. The group is hoping that Toronto will start issuing bypass alerts just like cold weather or heat advisories. The Ministry of the Environment has two months to respond to the request. In the meantime, Waterkeeper has set up a website so that people who paddle, surf, sail, or boat on the Toronto waterfront can identify themselves and support Waterkeeper’s call for a new bypass alerts program in the city: http://www.waterkeeper.ca/i-love-torontos-water
. #Toronto group @LOWaterkeeper says City should alert public when it releases #sewage http://bit.ly/TOSewageRelease
Do you know when #Toronto dumps #sewage in #LakeOntario? @LOWaterkeeper argues you should http://bit.ly/TOSewageRelease
Do you swim, paddle, surf, row, or boat Toronto’s waterfront? Then you need to see this http://bit.ly/TOSewageRelease
SAMPLE BYPASS ALERT
READ THE OFFICIAL SUBMISSION
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is a Canadian charity working for a day when every person in our watershed can safely touch the water, when the water is pure enough to drink, and when the lake is clean and wild enough that you could toss in a line anywhere and pull out a fish: www.waterkeeper.ca.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper created the Swim Guide, a popular smartphone app that helps people find clean beaches across Canada and the USA: www.theswimguide.org.
For media inquiries:
Community Outreach Manager
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper
TO Sewage press release, Toronto, City of Toronto, Mark Mattson, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Humber Sewage Treatment Plant, Ashbridges Bay Sewage Treatment Plant, Humber River, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, Toronto Beaches