A newly-proposed plan from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks wants to improve municipal wastewater and stormwater management and reporting, and increase transparency through real-time monitoring of sewage overflows from municipal wastewater systems into Ontario’s lakes and rivers.
The proposed plan, now under a comment period until the end of January 2019, was released November 29.
“Nobody wants to see plastic and litter polluting our waterways, neighbourhoods and parks. No one wants sewage and wastewater overflowing into our lakes and rivers or salt making its way into our waterways. These issues are happening now and need to be addressed,” the plan states.
The Ontario plan points to the City of Kingston as showing “environmental leadership” by already providing real-time public reporting of sewage overflows.
“The City of Toronto says monitoring isn’t necessary because they ‘already know’ that sewage pollution is a problem,” Lake Ontario Waterkeeper said in a recent statement. “We keep trying to explain that thousands of people are boating, sailing, and surfing in the Harbour. They don’t just need to know that sewage pollution can be a problem; they need to know when and where it’s a problem.”
The new Ontario plan follows closely on the heels of a report from the Ontario Environmental Commissioner’s Office that was critical of the province’s progress on reducing sewer overflows. Shortly after the report was released, the provincial government essentially eliminated the watchdog position, deciding to merge the role with the auditor general.
The new Ontario plan also calls for the province to update its policies related to municipal wastewater and stormwater, to make them easier to understand.
“We will consider how wastewater and stormwater financing could be updated to improve investment and support new and innovative technologies and practices,” the plan states.