The City of Kingston dumped more than 46-million litres of raw sewage into Lake Ontario between January 12 and March 13, 2006, according to records obtained by the Canadian Environmental Law Association. A list of 2006 bypass events shows that the city bypassed sewage seven times during five "events" in the first quarter of 2006.
The bypasses reflect Kingston's ongoing sewage pollution problems. Since 1999, the city has dumped well over 1-billion litres of raw sewage into area waterways. When needles, condoms, and other biowaste washed up on the shores of Wolfe Island one year ago, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and CELA joined forces to bring the city's bypassing to an end.
We filed a formal request that the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) immediately review and revise certificates of approval issued in relation to Kingston's sewage works. Specifically, we asked that the city notify downstream residents of bypasses, monitor the quantity and quality of the contamination, and cleanup if downstream areas are affected.
Unfortunately, after a lengthy delay and a closed-door negotiation with the city, the MOE denied our application and opted for a voluntary "letter of commitment" from the City of Kingston.
Waterkeeper and CELA objected to the Ministry's decision to adopt voluntary abatement. We argued that the Ministry should instead enforce Ontario's environmental laws fairly and strictly after years of ongoing pollution.
Last week, raw sewage once again washed ashore on Wolfe Island - residents notified the Ministry of Environment, took photos, and cleaned up much of the biowaste themselves.
Aghast at the City of Kingston's failure to protect its neighbours from the impacts of chronic sewage bypasses, CELA and Waterkeeper are now appealing to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. We have asked that the Ministry's refusal to review Kingston's wastewater permits be rejected on the following grounds:
1. The MOE's reasons are unpersuasive, unreasonable, and unresponsive. 2. The MOE's decision was delayed. 3. The MOE's reliance on the voluntary "Letter of Commitment" is inconsistent with the recommendations of the Walkerton Inquiry and contrary to provincial policy and guidelines. 4. The MOE's closed door negotiation with the city contravenes its Statement of Environmental Values.
At the heart of the issue is the fear that downstream users will face threats of contaminated drinking water and debris-strewn shorelines, if the city is allowed to bypass with impunity. And the knowledge that there will be no environmental justice in Kingston, if the Ministry works harder to protect the City than its citizens. That's a status quo we refuse to accept.