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Sewage Treatment – Not Good Enough

Wednesday, September 22nd 2010 11:37:02am

For Immediate Release

Sewage Treatment – Not Good Enough

Toronto, 22 September 2010 - Municipal wastewater systems are worsening the pollution of our Great Lakes, warns the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. In his 2009/2010 annual report released today, Gord Miller says it’s a consequence of the rapidly growing population of southern Ontario, and the Ministry of Environment is doing nothing about the growing problem.

Miller points to the deterioration of some key water quality indicators for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  

• The 2009 State of the Great Lakes Report, authored by the Canadian and United States governments, described the phosphorus situation as “poor” in near shore areas of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and patches of Lake Huron.  

• The quality of beaches on the Ontario side of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario has also been found to be “poor” and “deteriorating”.

“The Americans have been able to accomplish remarkable clean-ups of their lakes and rivers by strengthening their Clean Water Act, and setting clear standards for municipal wastewater,” says Miller. “On this side of the border though, water quality is deteriorating at the same time as burgeoning population growth is increasing effluent loadings. To me, that combination is a clear call for action.   But the ministry seems stuck in neutral. It could slow down or stop these steadily worsening pollution loads by phasing in tighter effluent limits.  But it hasn’t tightened effluent guidelines in 27 years.”

Discharges from municipal wastewater plants are among the largest pollution sources for our Great Lakes, especially for Lakes Erie and Lake Ontario.  Millions of Ontarians also depend on these lakes for drinking water and for close-to-home swimming, fishing and boating.  

“With a predicted population increase of almost 5 million additional people by 2036, Ontario urgently needs to protect these lakes and begin reducing wastewater discharge concentrations,” says Miller. “The technology is definitely there.”

The Commissioner’s report highlights Guelph as an example of what can be done – Guelph’s treated wastewater is very high quality, a result of optimizing its treatment process and investing in staff training and skills development. These investments helped Guelph avoid spending an estimated $20 million dollars to expand the facility.

Click here to read the chapter “Sewage Treatment: Not Good Enough” on the website of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.
Click here to download the full report in .pdf.

Click links below to access media releases on other topics mentioned in the Environmental Commissioner’s 2009/2010 Annual Report – Refining Conservation:

Environmental Commissioner Releases 2009/2010 Annual Report

Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters
Province’s air quality standards are not airtight
Wanted: One billion more trees for southern Ontario
Lack of Mining Oversight Jeopardizes the Far North
Government’s plan will not save caribou
Loophole big enough to truck 160,000 tonnes of sand through
More scrutiny needed for large natural gas plants
Province allows provincially significant wetlands to be drained

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The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province's independent environmental watchdog, and report publicly on the government's environmental decision-making.  

Aussi disponible en français.

For more information, contact:  
Hayley Easto
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673

Click for high-resolution photo.