The sludge and bacteria discharging onto the shores of Lookout Point Park from a stormwater sewer is within “the range that may be expected for urban areas”, according to an investigation conducted by the Ministry of the Environment. The Ministry’s decision comes in response to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s Application for Investigation. The Application included test results that indicate bacterial levels in the water at the outfall exceed provincial limits.
The six-foot wide Coverdale Storm Sewer Outlet is located on a public beach along the Lake Ontario shore in Cobourg, ON. Since its construction in 2006, local residents report the build up of pollutants has left the beach water at toxic, unswimmable levels.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s co-applicant, local resident Johanna Ter Woort, gathered water samples before and after the sewer’s appearance. The samples revealed that bacteria levels rose considerably in the area after the outflow began operation. Ter Woort also documented the appearance of dead fish and birds along the shores surrounding the sewer. Her evidence prompted local Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi to pen his own letter to the Ministry, asking them to review the issue in October 2007.
The Ministry’s decision, signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Michael Williams and issued December 1, 2008, concludes that while a problem may exist, it is considered an acceptable byproduct of sewage infrastructure. The Ministry’s technical assessment report confirms residents’ claims that bacterial contamination around the sewer impairs the quality of beach’s water. However, the report goes on to reason that the size and constant wave action of Lake Ontario should eventually get rid of the sludge.
The ministry also referred to a report by the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre that concluded many wild birds died along Lake Ontario because of Avian Botulism, not discharges from the sewer.
The Ministry states it will work with the municipality to improve stormwater quality and determine take any other action to minimize negative effects in the area.
Busted: investigating environmental crimes (Jan. 28, 2009)
Do decisions like this mean there’s a two-tiered law enforcement system for environmental crime: one for “urban” areas and one for “pristine” areas? And what does it mean for Lake Ontario if our regulators expect it to be polluted? That’s the issue on this week’s Living at the Barricades.
Mark and Krystyn question the wisdom of a two-tiered law enforcement system for environmental problems: one for "urban" areas and one for "pristine" areas. We revisit an Application for Investigation Lake Ontario Waterkeeper submitted in Cobourg, where the government decided not to take action. We also look at another case in Oshawa, where the Ministry of the Environment has decided to investigate the Harmony landfill.
Music on this week's show
Birds - Dawn Blythe and Dave Clark
I Saw the Light - Dan Gordon and The Sure Things
Listen to the show...