Last week, under the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, the Ontario and Canadian governments announced that $1.1 billion will be invested into infrastructure upgrades across the province.
This is the biggest investment in public infrastructure in the province's history. With over 1,000 drinking advisories across Canada every day, this investment couldn’t be more welcome.
The list includes important work to create a new landmass around the current Essroc Quay in Toronto that will stabilize the area shoreline under flood conditions; replace aging water mains and provide sanitary and storm water services in Barrie; retrofit work for ponds in Brampton to enhance water quality and control erosion; upgrades to the main water line and the construction of a new storm water treatment plant in Sudbury; improvements to the Hespeler wastewater treatment plant in Waterloo; and upgrades to the snow disposal facility in Guelph. These projects will greatly contribute to ensuring that communities across Ontario have access to clean and reliable drinking water, efficient wastewater systems, and healthy rivers and lakes.
When I look over the list of 41 approved projects to date – stormwater upgrades, wastewater treatment plant upgrades, water line upgrades, a snow disposal facility – I think about all of the communities who will benefit.
Toronto’s Essroc Quay, specifically, will receive the most substantial upgrade on the list, with funding equalling $48,750,000. This costly effort is part of a naturalization plan to help protect Toronto’s Port Lands from flooding.
If you’ve followed our sewage work, you’ll know how relieved we are to hear this.
Toronto’s inner harbour is plagued by 2 major sources of pollution: the polluted waters washing in from the Don River and its 9 combined sewer overflows.
This summer, Waterkeeper has been testing the water quality in Toronto’s inner harbour – one of the busiest recreational harbours in North America. And based on lab results, we can confirm that sediment isn’t the only thing washing in from the Don River. At the Keating Channel, after heavy rain bacteria levels resulted as high as 11,000 cfu.
But as a result of this major investment this could all change.
Protected from weather, waves, and undertows – Toronto’s inner harbour has some of the warmest and calmest in Lake Ontario. Hundreds and hundreds of people are found boating and paddling every day, every summer. Some people even jump in to cool off. But without anyone monitoring the water quality in this area, how are Torontonians supposed to know if the water is safe for recreational use?
Many people don’t know Toronto’s harbour has 9 combined sewer overflows. Not only are these waters the most accessible to the population but unfortunately, they’re also some of the most polluted.
The City of Toronto still has a lot of work to do make its harbour swimmable again. Separating the combined sewer overflows that discharge sewage when it rains is of the utmost importance. (Other efforts are also underway to capture these polluted waters in holding tanks for treatment after the rain.)
Rectifying these two sources of pollution will help make Toronto's inner harbour swimmable again, changing the very nature of the city and its relationship to Lake Ontario. By rebuilding our connection to clean water, the $1.1 billion isn’t just for infrastructure. This is an investment towards a more swimmable drinkable fishable future. In time, hopefully Toronto’s downtown shoreline will be dominated by recreational water users instead of industry.
After all, Toronto harbour – for all intents and purposes – is the face of Lake Ontario for most of Ontario's citizens. And cleaning up these waters would go a long way towards protecting the Great Lakes.