As of this week, our summer patrols in Hamilton Harbour and Eastern Lake Ontario have begun! With the boats on the water we are once again bringing you the "Ship's Log."
LOK investigators have been working very hard in Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston and Port Granby. Eric, Michael, Krystyn, Kevin and I have been meeting with people in these communities to document the toxins that are entering Lake Ontario. In the last week alone, we have been monitoring:
- Kingston shoreline for sewage and stormwater discharges
- Hamilton Harbour for toxic blobs
- Grenadier Pond/ Wendigo Creek for landfill leachate.
We have also been working with groups in Canada and the U.S. to scrutinize the Army Corps of Engineer?s Great Lakes Navigational System Review.
On Tuesday morning, Lynda, Krystyn, Molly and I put the Victor in the water and drove it to its docking space at the Hamilton Royal Yacht Club. Special thanks to the RHYC for providing the boat a home.
We also took our first tour around the Harbour and discovered that black blobs still float near the Stelco discharge pipes. Last September we were here on seven occasions over three days and found the exact same black blobs in the exact same area.
Although the water this week was substantially cooler than last September, it was still coated with a sheen and speckled with black blobs. The blobs, just like last year, would stick to the glass jar when sampled. Last year, the analysis of the blobs and the water column showed very high levels of PAHs, a family of toxins that contain dangerous carcinogens and are strictly regulated by environmental laws.
We took pictures and made notes of our findings. We visited the area two separate times on Tuesday. The second time we were accompanied by a reporter from CH-TV, the channel that broke the original story last fall and have their own sample results from that time.
We have written the Ministry of Environment (MOE) again, telling them of our findings and again urging them to initiate an investigation into the legality of these discharges. To date, the MOE has refused to start an investigation because LOK has not provided evidence as to who owns the blobs. While it has been suggested that they could be floating up from contamination on the bottom of the harbour, our observations don't seem to support that theory. We are not just asking the MOE to take our word for it, however. We are simply asking the MOE to conduct their own investigation into the source of the blobs before turning their back to the problem.
The good news is that LOK now has full-time eyes and ears on the Hamilton Harbour to monitor problems such as the blobs. Lynda Lukasik and Environment Hamilton staff will be operating the Victor all summer, continuing to document what is taking place in this area of the Harbour. We will get to the bottom of the problem soon and we hope to see action taken immediately.
I have been visiting the Bluffers Park in Scarborough for the past few weeks and observing the "Dunkers Flow Project." This is the name of a joint project of the City of Toronto, Environment Canada and the Ministry of Environment.
The project involves discharging Toronto stormwater into the Bluffers Park harbour through five "cells" designed to slow the flow of the untreated water before it makes its way into the Lake. The project was begun in 1997 - according to the initial public statement, regular monitoring would be done to assess the success of the project.
My visits to the location make me think that the project has been a failure and that the stormwater may be badly contaminating the harbour and the beaches in the area. While badly contaminated, the inner bay is a home for many birds and a popular dog-walking and picnicking area. I have even observed people throwing sticks for dogs in the contaminated bay despite the few signs around which read "Danger - Untreated Water."
One of our law students, Greg, and I have been trying to get the sampling results that the three governments have been conducting (according to the public statement and as implied by the many sampling stations around the bay). However, we have been told that no one government can give us the samples without approval from the other two levels. This seems a little ridiculous to me, but a City of Toronto representative also added that the results are meaningless in and of themselves. Further, those results need to be reviewed and approved before members of the public can see them. Unfortunately, this type of response from government officials regarding sample results is not unusual.
LOK is not taking no for an answer, though. We have written to all three levels of government and indicated that we are qualified to interpret the sample results ourselves and would like to be able to evaluate the success or failure of the project independently.
Bluffers Park is a popular area for Scarborough residents and one of the only water access points to the Lake for kilometers. It seems obscene that the City, Province and Federal government would turn the harbour into stormwater treatment facility that poses potential threats to water access, fish and bird habitat, and clean water.
Eric and I have been working with Gerard Kennedy?s office (MPP, High Park) and local resident David McAlpine to get the MOE to investigate and stop the discharges of leachate on the banks of Wendigo Creek.
We have been going through many meetings with MOE staff and Gerard has been incredible at getting to the bottom of this issue. As in other situations however, we are constantly faced with an MOE that is either understaffed or unprepared (for whatever reason) to get involved and take independent action. There is much work left to be done on this issue.