The Waterkeeper team commits our days towards working for a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. If you stop and think about it, that’s a pretty lofty goal summed up into one short and simple phrase.
Naturally one of the most frequently asked questions we receive, aside from “Can I swim in Lake Ontario?” (and yes, you can!) is, “How can I help?”
The first step is to sign up as a volunteer.
We at Waterkeeper are grateful to have so many skilled and dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the work we do. Volunteers help us spread our message of water safety and water literacy to the recreational water community. Volunteers represent us at community events, assist with research and sampling, collect Watermarks, and help archive the history of our work in the office.
But becoming a volunteer is only a partial answer to the “How can I help” question. You can really volunteer to help protect the health of Lake Ontario – and in turn your own health – anytime, anywhere. You don’t even need to sign up or come into the office to do it, although we’d love to see you!
The easiest and most effective way to help our team and cause, is to report pollution whenever you see it in, or around, the water.
Why? Simply put, we can’t be everywhere. Having extra eyes and ears on the ground means that we have a more full picture of the issues affecting our lake.
How do you know if it’s pollution?
Pollution includes algae blooms or blue-green algae, litter (plastics, paper, bottles, cigarette butts), sewage (condoms, tampons, applicators, needles), and oil and industrial spills. If you think something is pollution but you’re not sure, get in touch with us (remember to include a photo of the pollution) and we’ll help you out.
Why should you report pollution?
Our Waterkeeper Mark Mattson is also an environmental lawyer. He has monitored pollution in the watershed for years and always stresses the importance of documenting and reporting pollution.
It seems like such a small action – emailing or tweeting a photo to us, for example. But citizen pollution reports can mean the difference between a spill being contained and cleaned up or devastation to fish and birds.
When you report pollution you first and foremost protect the health and safety of your fellow recreational water users and water-lovers. You ensure that we can all aware of what’s happening to the lake.
When you report pollution as soon as you can, it limits the potential damage to the shoreline, and ensures that immediate action can be taken to clean up and locate the source to avoid future issues.
How do you report pollution?
Step 1: Report all pollution to your city right away! If you don’t report a problem to the government, there will be no official record of your concern.
If you’re living in Toronto you can also report to the city by calling *311. If you aren’t sure who to call, try the Ontario government spills hotline at 416-325-3000, or toll-free 1-800-268-6060.
Step 2: Let Lake Ontario Waterkeeper know!
Make sure you have all the information you need for your pollution report
Help prepare you for the next steps in your reporting process
Add your report to our list of pollution issues. If we see any repeat areas of concern we can investigate further.
(If you’re feeling unsure, skip step 1 and jump right to step 2. Contact us directly. We are ready to help!)
Remember to include the following in your pollution report:
What you see. What does the pollution look like?
Where is it. The city, and beach or street address.
When you saw it. Include the date and time too!
Photos. Pictures help identify what the pollution is and also serve as evidence
In general, the more details the better!
We know that if we can ensure rec water users know the threats to their lake and can take the necessary steps to report problems to minimize those threats, then a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future for Lake Ontario is not far away.