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Category Archives: Pollution

EBR 012-8760- Ontario’s Proposal on Reducing Phosphorus to Minimize Algal Blooms in Lake Erie


We see this proposal as necessary step toward fulfilling the commitment the Ontario Legislature made through the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015 to set target(s) for reducing algal blooms within two years of the legislation’s passage. Further comments about the framing of the proposed target are included below.

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Simon Lake Community wants Reprieve from Algae


Simon Lake – Summer 2009

The VRS clearly recognizes the serious concerns of the SLCSG, however; we urge caution in the City’s approach to mitigating the algae issue. VRS agrees that action must be taken by the City of Sudbury to resolve the long-standing issue of algae blooms once and for all; however, we differ in the recommended approach.

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Inspecting the Springbank Dam gates, Thames River

The City of London inspected the gates of the failed Springbank Dam, on the Thames River, City of London.  Around $ 7 million in upgrades, including the installation of the steel gates that would make the dam easier to operate, were nearly complete in 2008 when one of the four gates was dislocated during testing. The Thames River has been flowing unimpeded through the dam ever since.  A lawsuit is in the works.

“(The Thames) is actually getting healthier ever single year (the dam) has been left open,” said Rob Huber, president of the TRAA, told the Londoner in June. “The neat thing about what’s going on in London is we’ve actually (had an opportunity) to see what would happen if the dam wasn’t there for the first time in (over) 80 years.” Article here.

This drone flight shows the sludge already beginning to back up behind the gate that was lifted into place on Monday, the 13th of July.  There are two upstream wastewater treatment facilities releasing treated, and sometimes untreated, effluent into the Thames.

Start of Summer Sparks Urgent Call to Action on Lake Erie Nutrient Crisis – Joint Letter

Chicago, IL (June 2, 2015) – As the summer season begins around the lakes, more than 50 groups sent a joint letter to the governors and premiers of the Great Lakes states and provinces urging action to ensure the lakes, especially western Lake Erie, are free of harmful algal blooms that threaten the region’s economy, drinking water and way of life. The region’s leaders will be meeting in Quebec City, Quebec for the Leadership Summit of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, hosted by the Council of Great Lakes Governors, on June 12-14, 2015.

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Sewage Bypass Alert – City of Sudbury

The City of Sudbury recently passed a unanimous Council Motion to implement a Sewage Bypass Alert, whereby the public will be informed in real time when there is a sewage bypass or spill at any of their 13 wastewater treatment facilities. Sewage bypasses are becoming more frequent due to the extreme rain events associated with climate change, and this contaminated freshwater could pose a risk to residents who take their drinking water or swim downstream of these facilities.   Ontario Rivers Alliance also made a request to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, in October of 2014, to incorporate this important public safety measure into policy throughout the province.  All Sewage Bypass Alerts will be posted on the City of Greater Sudbury website here.


There are numerous Waste Water Treatment Facilities (WWTF) across the province releasing treated, untreated and partially treated effluent into streams and rivers that run through large and small communities that also rely on river water for their public and private drinking water and general household uses.  Increasing incidences of extreme rain events are making overflow and bypass of sewage a common and necessary strategy for many WWTF’s in Ontario.  ORA understand that in the short-term this is done in order to avoid back-ups into their treatment facilities as well as individual residences; however, in the long-term there must be a province-wide strategy to avoid untreated and partially treated releases of sewage effluent into the environment.

For example, in the Greater City of Sudbury, there are nine wastewater treatment facilities releasing treated, partially treated and untreated effluent into the Vermilion River watershed.  On 13 and 14 April, 262,999 m3, and again on 15 May, 59,778 m3, of partially treated sewage was released into the Vermilion River and its connecting lakes.  During 2013, 427,235 m3 of partially treated sewage was released through bypass and overflow from one Sudbury facility alone.   Many residences rely on the Vermilion River for their drinking water and  general household water usage, and public health and safety is placed at risk if untreated and/or partially treated sewage is present in their private water intakes or children and adults are swimming in affected river water.  There must be a standardized policy in place that sets out when and how the public is to be alerted when their water supply has been compromised.

ORA is confident that this is not an isolated problem, as very few WWTF were made to handle the extreme rain events that are becoming more and more prevalent with the effects of Climate Change.  The cumulative effects of numerous bypass and overflow events on the creeks and rivers feeding the Great Lakes also contribute to the prevalence of Cyanobacteria blooms on area lakes, as well as the Great Lakes.

The City of Kingston has a great model for other municipalities to follow through their Sewage Alert System and on-line Bypass Log which reports bypass and overflow incidents on their website.  Facebook and Twitter communications should also be utilized in an effective strategy.

The bottom line is that local downstream residents need to be notified at the earliest possible moment of any potential risk to their water source and/or their health and safety.  When an overflow or bypass is reported to the MOECC and local health unit, at the same time the public must also be notified through an alert so that precautions can be taken.

The City of Sudbury is now in the process of implementing this policy; however, we are awaiting a decision by MOECC on whether this policy will be implemented throughout all of Ontario.

Blue Legacy expedition 2014, by Alexandra Cousteau

Nature’s Course

Ottawa River – Understanding our river

Blue Legacy International, founded and directed by Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famous oceanographer, produced 3 short documentaries on the Ottawa River. These films focus on governance, water quality and the impact of dams on biodiversity. The production of these documentaries was made possible through funding from the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation.

EBR 011-9290 – 8th Canada – Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health – Joint Letters

The Great Lakes are more than an alluring landscape – they are also a source of food and economic growth. Climate change, invasive species, habitat loss, and pollution now threaten to degrade that resource. We cannot afford to let that happen for both the sake of our economy and health.

The Great Lakes economy, which supports 56 million jobs and a GDP of $5.1 trillion, could be negatively impacted by a decline in water quality. In Ontario, the Great Lakes commercial and recreational fishing industries contribute about $234 million and $600 million annually to Ontario’s economy respectively. Over 73 million tourists visited Ontario in 2010, spending over $12.3 billion.

The health of 40 million people who live in the Great Lakes basin is also tied to the health of the Lakes. Over 70 per cent of Ontario residents, or three out of four residents3, get their drinking water from the Lakes, and yet toxic chemicals and other pollutants are building up in the water. Some of these harmful chemicals are toxic and could have long-term, chronic human health effects.

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Lively/Walden Wastewater Treatment System – Part II Order Request

The City of Greater Sudbury is proposing to decommission the Lively Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) and upgrade the Walden WWTP.  Vermilion River Stewardship (VRS) has requested tertiary treatment, which is a third means of effluent treatment, to improve water quality on the lower Junction Creek, Simon Lake, McCharles Lake, and the lower Vermilion River.  VRS is making a request to the Minister of Environment to issue a Part II Order to elevate this proposal to an Individual Environmental Assessment.  See attached letter.

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Drought-induced release of metals from peatlands in watersheds recovering from historical metal and sulphur deposition

This recently published study is very relevant to hydroelectric peaking operations that store water during off-peak hours to produce power during peak demand hours.  This results in daily inundation and drying of upstream and downstream soils, sediments, as well as peat in wetland areas.  This wetting and drying, especially in areas that have been heavily impacted by mining, can result in the release of acidic, metal contaminated waters – see the abstract and slide presentation below.

E. J. Szkokan-Emilson, B. Kielstra, S. Watmough, J. Gunn

Abstract – click to obtain study.

Climate change is predicted to cause an increase in frequency and severity of droughts in the boreal ecozone, which can result in the lowering of water tables and subsequent release of acidic, metal-contaminated waters from wetlands. We believe that in areas where historical deposition of metals and sulphur was severe, these episodic pulses of metals could reach concentrations sufficiently high to severely affect aquatic communities in receiving waters and cause a delay in biological recovery. The objective of this study is to evaluate the impact of drought on the chemistry of water draining from two Sudbury peatlands with widely contrasting peat organic matter content to determine the response of stream water chemistry to drought from peatland types in the region. Stream samples were collected using ISCO™ automated water collectors from June to November 2011. Following a period of drought, there was a decline in pH and a large increase in concentrations of sulphate and metal ions (Al, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni, and Zn) in water draining both peatlands, with extreme concentrations occurring over a period of about two weeks. At the site with the higher peat organic matter content there was an increase in metals that have a high affinity to bind to DOC (Al, Cu, and Fe) during the onset of drought. This study demonstrates a dramatic response to drought at two sites that differ in metal and nutrient pool sizes, hydrology, and topography, suggesting the potential for a majority of peatlands in the region to experience this response. Efforts to restore aquatic ecosystems and protect freshwater resources must take into account these processes, as disruptions to biogeochemical cycles are likely to become more prevalent in a changing climate.

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