Toronto to disclose when sewage flows into Lake Ontario

Aug 17, 2015

The city of Toronto will soon have to inform the public when it is forced to send untreated sewage into Lake Ontario. The decision comes from Ontario's ministry of the Environment, after a complaint from a group known as Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.


The surprise to most people is that untreated sewage is being allowed to flow into Lake Ontario. It sometimes happens after heavy rains overwhelm the city's older sewer system. Then, the raw sewage can bypass treatment plants and enter the lake.

Toronto residents will soon receive alerts when wet weather sends sewage and stormwater into Lake Ontario.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/SYSS Mouse

Mark Mattson is the founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a non-profit organization that has been advocating for more notification to the public about water quality problems.

"The city of Toronto has had a real problem over the years with releasing sewage into the water and not giving the public immediate notification of what's going on. So we know where the beaches are, if they're open or closed. There's eleven beaches in Toronto. But the rest of the 55 kilometers of waterfront, the public really has no idea what's going on," said Mattson.

Mattson says there are health risks posed by the untreated water and he says people who use the lakefront should have the latest water quality information.
    
He says the state of New York recently enacted what is described as "right to know" legislation so the public must be informed within four hours of any raw sewage sent into Lake Ontario or other waterways.
    
Mattson says the move to force Toronto to take a similar measures is a good decision and an important step in reclaiming the lake for recreational use. Thousands of Torontonians, along with tourists, paddle, sail, swim and use the lake and its shoreline.
    
Changes about public information on events at wastewater treatment plants are expected to come within a few months.