Toronto to start issuing updates when wet weather affects Lake Ontario; Government releases response to Waterkeeper’s legal application (Press Release)
- Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change decided this week that the City of Toronto must start releasing updates about wet weather events and treatment plant bypasses to the public
- Under-treated sewage flows into Lake Ontario nearly every week, all year round in Toronto
- Sewage bypasses and spills happen because the city’s wastewater treatment system is too old and too small to keep up with urban growth and climate change
- Waterkeeper filed a legal application under the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights asking that the City of Toronto be required to alert the public during sewage bypasses and spills so that people can avoid polluted areas
August 5, 2015 (Toronto) -- Toronto residents will soon receive alerts when wet weather sends sewage and stormwater into Lake Ontario. This is the main conclusion of a year-long investigation by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper prompted the investigation with an application for review, filed under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights in July 2014.
When heavy rains overwhelm the city’s sewer system, partially-treated sewage flows into Lake Ontario. Human contact with sewage-contaminated water can result in serious health concerns including eye, ear, nose, throat infections.
Thousands of people paddle, sail, and surf near the Humber and Ashbridges Bay wastewater treatment plants. Waterkeeper argued that the public should be alerted during sewage spills so people can steer clear of polluted areas until water quality improves.
“We asked for the review so that Toronto residents will be able to protect themselves during sewage bypasses and spills. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s report means that Torontonians can now return to the lake with confidence that they best information is being made available to them, when they need it,” says environmental lawyer Mark Mattson.
In its decision, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment confirmed that wet weather events have an impact on water quality in Lake Ontario. The Ministry concluded that the City of Toronto will start issuing communications to the public about water quality following all wet weather events.
The Ministry also concluded that Toronto will report details about bypass events at wastewater treatment plants to the public in real-time.
These changes are expected to take place in the coming months.
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.
Wet weather alerts are coming to Toronto! Following a year-long investigation, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change says that the public should receive more information about water quality following heavy rains and snow melts. Even partially-treated sewage in the water means that people who are paddling, surfing, and boating could get sick - and they don’t even know it.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper triggered the review with a legal application filed in July 2014 under the Environmental Bill of Rights. Currently, sewage bypasses happen about three times a month, all year round.
Waterkeeper realized how serious the problem was after the massive storm one year ago knocked out power at the Humber River treatment plant. Wastewater flowed into Lake Ontario for 28 hours and the city failed to alert residents. Government monitoring showed elevated levels of bacteria offshore in Lake Ontario.
Expect to see Toronto’s new communications kick-in soon.
Ontario government says City of Toronto will start doing more to alert public to water quality concerns during wet weather @LOWaterkeeper #swimdrinkfish
Do you swim, paddle, surf, row, or sail Toronto’s waterfront? The Ontario government says City of Toronto should keep up informed about sewage plant bypasses #swimdrinkfish
- Waterkeeper sampling after July 2013 storm
- Photos by Jim Panou of Toronto Harbour following June 2013 storm
MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT REPORT
For media inquiries:
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper