What is it going to take to get the City of Toronto to come clean?
Earlier this week, the Environmental Commissioner, Dianne Saxe agreed with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the MOECC: The City of Toronto should give the public immediate notifications when sewage is discharged into waterways.
The Environmental Commissioner's comments (in volume 1 of the report, page 71):
The success of this application demonstrates the power of the EBR right to request that the government review environmentally significant laws, regulations and policies. Because the applicants exercised this right, the MOECC committed to taking positive steps towards increasing public transparency about water quality in recreational waters, as well as reducing public health risk due to sewage bypasses and overflows.
However, it has been two years since the ministry began this review and the public is still not being notified of sewage bypasses. The MOECC should work with Toronto Water to implement procedures for public notification as soon as possible. The applicants clearly demonstrated that without such transparency and communication, public health will continue to be jeopardized by sewage bypass- es into lakes and rivers.
The ECO recommends that the MOECC work with Toronto Water to implement procedures for public notification of sewage bypass events as soon as possible.
This is great news for the Swim Drink Fish community. Thousands of recreational water users make use of the entire waterfront -- not just Toronto’s 11 official beaches. When sewage is discharged and the city withholds that information, public health and the public’s trust in Lake Ontario’s waters are threatened.
That’s why the Minister of the Environment agreed with our EBR application, forcing the City to comply with public notification rules.
Since then, the City of Toronto has done very little to acknowledge the Minister’s decision, almost completely ignoring it. Even after Commissioner Saxe’s report, City officials (like Lou Di Gironimo) are still arguing against transparency, suggesting real-time notifications can do more harm than good.
The argument is over. Public transparency is what Torontonians want. If there’s a threat to recreational water quality, the public should be notified.