4 | WINTER 2018 | GBF.ORG IMPORTANT INFO WATER QUALITY ISSUE: SEWAGE OVERFLOWS INTO GEORGIAN BAY WHEN DOES SEWAGE RUNOFF OCCUR? A sewage bypass occurs when water flow exceeds the capacity of a municipality's wastewater treatment plant. Raw sewage and stormwater discharge directly into local waterways. What’s most concerning to those of us who enjoy the pristine waters of Geor- gian Bay is that this stormwater runoff carries substantial untreated human and industrial waste, toxic materials and debris. This is the same water that we swim and play in, fish from and drink. Political decisions and action are needed today to ensure these runoffs — which, in part, are a consequence of climate change — don't compromise the future of our waters. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE? Stormwater management is primarily the responsibility of municipal governments, but the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is responsible for approv- ing sewage works under the Ontario Water Resources Act. Municipalities are asked to promptly notify the MOECC and the Medical Officer of Health of all bypasses and overflows, explains Lindsay Davidson of the MOECC. “We often encourage municipalities, who own and often operate wastewater treatment plants, to make this information available to their local community,” he explains. But, currently, it is not the law. INCREASING PUBLIC AWARENESS Last fall, Ontario MPP (Dufferin-Caledon) Syl- via Jones put forward a private member’s bill that, if adopted, would require the MOECC to report when and where sewage bypasses oc- cur and the measured or estimated volume of discharge to the public within 24 hours. While some municipalities currently do proactively report bypasses to the public, it is not a con- sistent practice across the province. Although Ms. Jones says she is still waiting on the Ministry of Environment to comply with her request for bypass data for the summer of 2017, it was reported in June of 2017 that the City of Toronto dumped 1.3 million cubic metres of partially treated sewage into Lake Ontario. “If passed,” says Ms. Jones, “Bill 141 would also ensure that residents understand the importance of investing in key infrastruc- ture like water treatment plants and pipes.” “People need to know when a sewage bypass occurs so they can make more informed deci- sions about how and when they use public wa- ter bodies and to help inform future decisions around public infrastructure investments,” says Harry Bauman, President of the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Associa- tion. This need for increased awareness of nec- essary infrastructure is nothing new for many municipalities surrounding Georgian Bay. MUNICIPALITIES ARE REQUESTING STUDIES AND UPGRADES Peter Brown, Director of Public Works for the town of Parry Sound, which had numerous bypasses in the summer of 2017, confirms that although it is difficult to precisely quantify the amount of sewage that is entering the water during a bypass, it is of grave enough concern that Parry Sound’s municipal government is in the process of requesting a complete inflow/ infiltration study to be part of its 2018 budget. “We do our best to control high flows of water due to extreme weather events, but some- times it is just beyond our control,” he says. In 2016, according to the MOECC, 48,565,760 litres of bypassed sewage were reported to the Owen Sound District Office (not all of this would have been discharged into Georgian Bay). The town received both federal and provincial funding to go toward a $48 million upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant. It includes a new, biological aerated filtration system that improves efficiency in processing the water and also helps consume biological contaminants such as phosphorus, ammonia Any cottager would agree that a particularly rainy summer like we had in 2017 can put a damper on cottage activities, but it can also have a negative effect on our water quality, due to increasing sewage overflows into Georgian Bay. By Sara Carter Perhaps most alarmingly, no level of govern- ment is currently required to report these overflows to the public... An example of pipes carrying run-off.