Today marks the launch of the Living at the Barricades Podcast. Living at the Barricades is Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's weekly radio show that is a dynamic reflection of the Waterkeeper Weekly newsletter. The Podcast allows listeners to automatically download Living at the Barricades to iTunes, freely access show archives, and take environmental justice stories wherever they go. On this week's show hosts Mark Mattson and Krystyn Tully discuss the state of Ontario's beaches and the 2007 Beach Report. The show also features an interview with Andrew McCammon of the Taylor Massey Project.
Every Canadian has a right to safely swim in his or her local waterway. The right to access clean water goes back thousands of years and is linked to the rights of the citizen to find food and to travel on the water “rights that are essential if freedom and equality are to flourish.
Beaches are critical natural infrastructure for Southern Ontario communities. Shallow waters and sandy beaches provide unique habitat for birds and aquatic life. Cool waters are a respite for millions of people on hot summer days and encourage healthy, active lifestyles. Public spaces create meeting places for families and foster rich social and cultural communities.
Ontario's environmental laws reflect the importance of clean, accessible beaches. The Ontario Water Resources Act prohibits anyone from discharging any material that may impair the quality of the water. The Environmental Protection Act prohibits any person from discharging any contaminant that may impair the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it.
Government policies “ nonbinding guidelines that outline how government should enforce laws or make decisions “ also promote clean, accessible beaches. Procedure F-5-5 describes the standards for sewer systems and promises every Ontarian that beaches will be open at least 95% of the swimming season (June 1- September 30).
The Beach Management Protocol asks public health departments to monitor public beaches, test the water, and search out sources of pollution. A beach in Ontario is considered safe for swimming when e. Coli levels are below 100 cfu/ 100 mL of water. This standard is used by all provincial and municipal government departments. F-5-5 allows beaches to fall below the 100 e. Coli standard one or two days in the summer. The Protocol encourages health departments to identify the reason for the problem when a beach suffers from chronic e. Coli contamination.
For four years, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper monitored municipal beach hotlines in an effort to see how well Ontario's laws and policies are protecting our beaches. We kept a log of which beaches were open and which beaches were posted during the swimming season. We published annual reports listing the results for most of the beaches on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario.
The monitoring program was intended to answer two frequently asked questions: Is it safe to swim in Lake Ontario? And, is Lake Ontario getting any cleaner? At first, the annual report cards were a great tool “ we could identify which beaches failed to meet water quality standards on a regular basis. Members of the community could identify and choose cleaner beaches. We believed that after a few years we would be able to identify trends that would tell us whether the beaches on Lake Ontario were getting cleaner.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's Beach Report 2007 presents the conclusions from our four years of monitoring and study.
Download the report here.