I had the honour of representing Lake Ontario Waterkeeper at the May 18 unveiling of Utilities Kingston’s new sewer overflow alerts website.
“Know Before You Go” is the new gold standard for protecting public health on the water in Ontario. It’s a game-changer. Other municipalities and water utilities should pay attention.
Why does it matter? Because overflow notifications give people the facts they need to protect their health on the water. They can avoid polluted areas when there is a sewage overflow. They can flock to the lake when the water is clean. These real-time notifications make it possible for a new generation of informed, water literate residents to connect with their piece of the Great Lakes coast.
The Know Before You Go tool also educates residents about Kingston’s infrastructure needs. Now they can see for themselves why investing in proper wastewater collection and treatment is so necessary and so important.
Ten years ago, our president and Waterkeeper Mark Mattson and Rick Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association fought hard to draw attention to the impact sewage pollution was having on the Kingston community and nearby Wolfe Island. Thank goodness they did. And thank goodness people at the city and people at the province shared the community’s concerns. That’s how good policy is made. That’s what drives public sector innovation.
We need more of this. It’s 2017 and public appreciation for the Great Lakes is on the rise. The number of people going to beaches has doubled. People love the lake. They want access. And they want it to be clean and healthy.
It’s inspiring to see Utilities Kingston emerging as a leader and showing that it cares about people on the water. We hope the 40 other Ontario communities with combined sewer systems follow Kingston’s lead.
Click here to see Utilities Kingston's map for sewage overflows.