McGuinty Government Acts To Protect Lake Simcoe

Archived Release

McGuinty Government Acts To Protect Lake Simcoe

Immediate Steps Will Address Phosphorus Discharge; Consultation Key In Development Of Legislation To Protect Lake Simcoe TORONTO, Dec. 6 - Working with the community and stakeholders, the McGuinty government will develop long-term measures that will protect the health of Lake Simcoe and those who enjoy it, Environment Minister John Gerretsen announced today. "The people and communities around Lake Simcoe know that we must begin living in harmony with the lake and working toward sustainable communities in order to protect it for generations to come," said Gerretsen. "Our government is committed to a long term protection strategy for Lake Simcoe; one that sees everyone doing their part and by lowering the amount of phosphorus going into the lake. In the meantime, we are acting immediately where we can to hold the line on phosphorus." Immediate actions include proposed interim limits on municipal and industrial sewage discharges and stronger requirements for stormwater facilities. An $850,000 investment will support information sharing and research into reduced phosphorus discharges from other urban and agricultural sources. This investment will also help to promote awareness of what people can do around their homes and workplaces to reduce their phosphorus footprint. Over the long term, the province will work with the community and stakeholders to develop legislation to improve sewage treatment standards and set strict limits for pollutants such as phosphorus and other protection activities. This will build on the science and work already done by the province, municipalities and community groups through initiatives such as the Lake Simcoe Environmental Management Strategy. Lake Simcoe is the largest inland lake in southern Ontario. It provides drinking water for a number of communities and is a significant agricultural area and important tourist destination. While it does not impact drinking water quality, phosphorus from both urban and rural sources lowers oxygen levels in the water, threatening fish in the lake. Gerretsen also laid out the next steps the government will take in developing the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act. It will: - set up a science advisory committee to ensure the legislation and long-term protection strategies are based on science - set up a multi-stakeholder advisory committee to advise on best approaches to improve the long term future of Lake Simcoe, the advisory committee will be broad based, capturing input from communities as wide ranging as agriculture, tourism, fisheries, development and community and environmental interests - conduct a parallel consultation with the First Nations with cultural, economic and heritage links to Lake Simcoe, - develop a broad public consultation plan to gather input from all interested in the health of Lake Simcoe - release a discussion paper to consult and help frame the discussion on Lake Simcoe watershed protection. "It's a busy schedule, we'll be drawing on experts from all communities around the lake, including farmers, business people, environmentalists, first nations, scientists, citizen groups" said Gerretsen. "There is a great deal of interest in protecting the lake and a lot of ideas about the best ways to do this, we want to hear them to make sure that we get our protection strategy right." Disponible en français Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- PROTECTING LAKE SIMCOE Contact Info The McGuinty government is committed to developing legislation and programs for Lake Simcoe that will protect the health of the lake and address all sources of phosphorus. While these broad, long term measures are being developed, the government is taking immediate action to address phosphorus by putting limits on regulated sources such as sewage treatment plants and investing in research into reducing phosphorus loadings from other urban and agricultural sources. Phosphorus levels have been recognized as a long-term problem in Lake Simcoe, with approximately 67 tonnes per year being discharged from a variety of sources, primarily municipal and agricultural. Phosphorus leads to excessive plant growth and decay in the lake, reducing oxygen which fish need to survive. New Requirements For Sewage Treatment And Stormwater Facilities A proposed interim regulation would put interim limits on phosphorus loadings from existing municipal and industrial sewage treatment facilities, stop new ones that would discharge phosphorus and require new stormwater facilities to meet the highest design standards to increase phosphorus removal. This proposal has been posted on the Environmental Registry for a 60-day period, during which the ministry will be consulting with communities in the basin to get their feedback and to ensure the final regulation appropriately limits discharges of phosphorus to the lake. The regulation would impose an annual phosphorous loading limit on each of the 14 existing municipal sewage treatment facilities and the one industrial sewage treatment plant located in the Lake Simcoe basin. This limit would be in effect until March 31, 2009. Collectively, the 15 existing sewage treatments plants within the Lake Simcoe Basin are legally permitted to discharge up to 12.5 tonnes of phosphorus each year. The new limits would reduce this total permitted loading to the basin to 7.5 tonnes a year. In 2006, the plants discharged a total of 5.9 tonnes of phosphorus. The Ministry of the Environment will work with the individual municipalities to set limits for each of their facilities. The proposed interim regulation will prevent a new sewage treatment facility within the Lake Simcoe basin if the discharge will result in the addition of phosphorous loadings. New facilities designed to manage stormwater from a new development within the Lake Simcoe basin would have to be built to the highest protection level specified in the ministry's Stormwater Management Planning and Design Manual. This provision would not apply to the construction of new stormwater facilities that service existing development or a new small infill development. The proposed regulation is posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry at: www.ontario.ca/environmentalregistry. The registry number is 010-2246. Addressing Other Sources Of Phosphorus Run off from urban, rural and agricultural uses in the Lake Simcoe watershed and airborne dust from sources inside and outside the basin are significant sources of phosphorus to the lake. The government is investing $850,000 for information and research to support reducing phosphorus loadings from other urban and agricultural sources and to promote awareness of what people can do around their homes and workplaces to reduce their phosphorus footprint. The investments are: - $500,000 to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and academia to monitor, increase sampling coverage and frequency, assist in setting ecological targets, consolidate data and to identify the impacts of sources both inside and outside the Lake Simcoe basin. - $250,000 for a pilot study on the efficacy of using Phoslock, a product designed to remove phosphorus from waterways, in the inner drainage canal in the Holland Marsh to limit loadings from the marsh. - $100,000 for local environment groups to educate and encourage people in the Lake Simcoe basin to do the things that they can do to help reduce phosphorus loading such as using less fertilizer, picking up pet waste and disconnecting downspouts. Science-based Decision Making The government will establish a Lake Simcoe Science Advisory Committee to provide advice and recommendations to ensure the long-term protection strategy for Lake Simcoe is based on science. The committee will build on previous work to: - conduct a review of current Lake Simcoe science - identify major ecological issues and concerns - review environmental objectives for Lake Simcoe including the priority of critical issues - advise on target setting and standards - review existing models such as the Assimilative Capacity Study - review objectives for fisheries management (e.g. dissolved oxygen target and/or protection of critical habitat) - advise on incorporating science into a policy and legislative framework - evaluate science and monitoring needs to support a science-based adaptive management approach. For further information: Contact information for media: Patti Munce, (416) 314-6736, Minister Gerretsen's Office; John Steele, (416) 314-6666, Ministry of the Environment; Contact information for the general public: (416) 325-4000 or 1-800-565-4923, www.ene.gov.on.ca HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 For further information: Contact information for media: Patti Munce, (416) 314-6736, Minister Gerretsen's Office; John Steele, (416) 314-6666, Ministry of the Environment; Contact information for the general public: (416) 325-4000 or 1-800-565-4923, www.ene.gov.on.ca