Protecting water quality - Stormwater pollution
You can help improve water quality
Pollution from stormwater runoff and untreated overflows from combined sewers degrade the water quality of Toronto's creeks, rivers and Lake Ontario. Excessive E.coli bacteria levels in lake water causes Toronto Public Health to post a sign warning that swimming in the lake is a health risk. (Check beaches for more information.) Also during periods of heavy rainfall, the volume in the sewer system can cause basement flooding.
To help reduce stormwater pollution and combined sewers overflows, you need to keep as much rain, melting snow and excess water from lawn or garden watering on your home or business property.
Do you live in an area served by combined sewers?
You can make a difference - help the city improve water quality
Make the following activities part of your regular routine:
- Stoop and scoop animal waste.
- Keep your car off the road, ride your bike, take transit or car pool.
- Reduce or eliminate your use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Don't dump toxic substances into the sewer system.
- Drop-off harmful products at a Household Hazardous Waste Depot
- Disconnect your home's eavestrough downspouts from the sewer
The City of Toronto has a number of projects to reduce stormwater pollution and combined sewer overflows. The City is also looking at the larger, long-term solutions for the problem. This planning work is being done through a process called the Wet Weather Flow Master Plan. Staff, environmentalists, government agencies and public representatives are working on a plan that will manage wet weather flows in the city. The plan will look at stormwater as a resource to be used in a positive way in the city's environment.
The use of tanks and tunnels for storing sewer discharge for subsequent treatment has been proven throughout Europe and North America. Two underground detention tanks at Toronto's Eastern Beaches currently capture and hold combined sewer overflows and stormwater. The wastewater then goes for treatment before being return to the lake. The tanks have significantly improved water quality and reduced the number of days the eastern beaches are posted unsafe for swimming in the summer.
One of the newest projects to help clean up water pollution is the Western Beaches storage tunnel. The tunnel prevents combined sewer overflows from going directly in Lake Ontario by intercepting them from the storm sewers and combined sewers. Four kilometres long with three huge holding tanks, the tunnel should go a long way to cleaning up pollution of near-shore waters in the western beaches area of the city. The tunnel's holding tanks will use ultraviolet lights to kill bacteria in the water before releasing it slowly back into the lake.
Toronto beaches water quality reports
Check to see if your local beach is safe for swimming. Check Toronto Public Health's Beaches Water Quality Reports.
Toronto beaches go "Blue"
On June 30, 2005, the City of Toronto in partnership with Environmental Defence Canada, became the first municipality in North America to be recognized by the Blue Flag program. Four Toronto beaches have been awarded the exclusive eco-label of the Blue Flag Program including: Cherry Beach, Hanlan's Point, Wards Island and Woodbine Beaches. Based in Europe, this internationally recognized program awards blue flags to communities committed to maintaining high standards for water quality, safety, beach maintenance and environmental education and outreach. Through the Blue Flag program, the City hopes to increase awareness and action where Toronto's beaches and water pollution are concerned.
Toronto joins more than 2,400 beaches and marina's in 33 countries with the Blue Flag designation. For more information on the Blue Flag program go to www.toronto.ca/beach/.