On this website and on Swim Guide, we provide the opportunity for people to report pollution they see while they are on or around the water. Over the last year we have received 142 reports, ranging anywhere from trash on a beach to a major spill. We thank everyone who has sent us reports. They are invaluable sources of information.
We still encourage everyone to send in reports, but we are now taking the next step with our pollution reporting initiative. While receiving a pollution report every now and then is important, we now see the value in regularly monitoring a certain area.
In September, the Toronto Remedial Action Plan Team released a report saying that Toronto’s water aesthetics should no longer be considered “impaired.” In other words, Toronto’s water looks and smells great.
Our findings through our own Toronto Harbour Monitoring project proved that this certainly isn’t the case. The only reason why we were able to say definitively that the harbour should still be considered impaired is because we were making weekly observations of the areas we sampled, including taking pictures and videos.
Eyes and Ears Campaign
That’s where you come in. We are asking for volunteers to become the eyes and ears for their local waters. Whenever you are out or near your favourite water spot, send photos and take some notes of how it looks—even if everything appears fine.
By taking regular observations, you are expanding your knowledge of not only your local waters but on environmental issues in general. You will begin to see things you may have normally have glossed over. You will learn more about the state of your local waters and what affects it. You will gain a new perspective and become a water leader.
Gaining knowledge aside, you are also helping to protect your local waterway and that’s what it’s really all about. By providing us with your observations, you are documenting the day-to-day/week-to-week life of your local waters. Over time, we will get a sense of how an area changes over time. Where applicable, we can see the impact pollution can have on the environment.
Furthermore, your photos—in combination with others who contribute—help paint a more complete picture of the larger watershed. It allows us to see trends and patterns that we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
How to get involved
Here’s the step-by-step process to take part in our Eyes and Ears Campaign It’s much easier than most people think.
Locate – Each day we pass over countless streams and rivers. Become aware of the waterways near you and be mindful to check on them as you pass by.
Learn – There’s lots to know about waterways but you don’t have to be an expert. Take an interest, ask questions and you’ll be surprised what you learn.
Document – This may be the most important step of all. If you see something strange like dead fish or birds, strange colours or foam, photos are the best way to document what’s happening.
Report – If you see a spill call the Spill Action Centre—1-800 -268-6060—and make sure to document what you see including pollution source, weather, dead fish or birds, and even what you smell. All of this is critical for any spill investigation. Many government agencies can be involved in a single spill so your notes are imperative for coordinating response efforts. You can learn more about reporting pollution and who to call here.
Reach out! – We’re here to help! Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is here to help you. Our staff will gladly help you coordinate your spill response.
Spread the word – A spill in our waterways is an urgent matter. Don’t be afraid to contact the local media, or to share your social media. Not only does this spread the word but it helps encourage others to take an active role in their waterways.