September 9, 2014 is a big day. The Ontario government is expected to tell us whether or not it will review Toronto’s sewage bypass notification policy (or lack thereof).
We’re waiting on pins and needles, along with the 1,000 recreational water users who say they use Toronto’s waterfront and want to be told when sewage spills happen.
Here’s the issue
The City of Toronto’s sewage and stormwater system can’t keep up with increasingly heavy rains, a growing population, and more developed surfaces. The city is spending more than a billion dollars on system upgrades (which is great).
For the foreseeable future, two wastewater treatment plants on the waterfront can’t keep up when there is a heavy rainfall (about once a month). When that happens, they bypass partially-treated sewage into Lake Ontario. This sewage contains chemicals and other pollutants that can make you sick if you swim, paddle, or sail in it. And you aren’t told.
Earlier this summer, Waterkeeper submitted a legal application to the Province of Ontario. Using Ontario's Environmental Bill of rights, we asked the Ministry of Environment to review Toronto’s policy of silence. We recommended that the city start issuing alerts when bypasses take place, so that recreational water users can steer clear of polluted locations. That helps people protect their health and builds public support for upgrading our out-dated system.
Under provincial law, the Ministry has until September 9, 2014 to decide whether it will conduct a review. If they do, they could be helping to protect the health of thousands of GTA residents.
1,000 people think a review is warranted. We think a review is warranted. And now we wait ….
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