TheStar: Conservative government shutting down northern Ontario world-class freshwater research facility

TheStar.com Conservative government shutting down northern Ontario world-class freshwater research facility

May 17, 2012

Allan Woods

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is shuttering a scientific “jewel” in northern Ontario that has put Canada at the forefront of global freshwater lake research, the Toronto Star has learned.

The federal fisheries department announced Thursday morning that it intends to close down the Experimental Lakes Area, a collection of 58 lakes near Kenora.

From acid rain to mercury levels to climate change and the effects of household phosphates on freshwater ecosystems, the open-air research facility has seen it all, and often been the site of world-leading breakthroughs in science.

“In our scientific community it’s an international jewel,” said Yves Prairie, a professor in the department of biology at Universite du Quebec a Montreal. “This is where some of the most significant advances in our science have occurred in the last 40 years.”

“For us, it’s completely incredible that the government would shut it down given the international stature that it has and the importance for the field.”

The word comes as federal lawmakers debate a controversial budget billthat eases rules on environmental assessments, removes protection for fish and wildlife and scraps agencies like the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, an independent panel struck to help Ottawa balance environmental protection with economic growth.

Before the Experimental Lakes Area was created, biologists studying freshwater lakes and ecosystems were forced to collect water in containers and truck it back to the lab for tests and experiments with less than reliable results.

After the Ontario government deeded the area to the federal government in the late 1960s, scientists were able to manipulate whole lakes to study some of the most pressing water issues of the day.

Since then, it has drawn some of the top scientists into freshwater ecosystems from Canada, the United States and around the world.

In announcing the closure, the government said such work is now better carried out by universities and non-governmental organizations.

“Their assertion that universities can do this sort of stuff is just absurd. They simply do not give, via any of their mechanisms, the kind of money needed to run a facility like that,” said David Schindler, a University of Alberta ecology professor who helped to set up the Experimental Lakes Area.

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Draft of Mississippi-Rideau Drinking Water Source Protection Plan released

From the website:

The Mississippi Valley Conservation and Rideau Valley Conservation Authority have developed draft policies to help keep contaminants out of rivers and groundwater where they are a source of municipal drinking water. Such preventative measures will help make municipal drinking water even safer. Review the draft policies and submit comments by May 4, 2012.

Policies can be found in the draft Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan. This Plan contains a series of voluntary and mandatory policies that encourage good stewardship, require additional oversight or risk reduction measures where necessary and prohibit certain activities from being established in the future. Funding is also available until December 1, 2012 to help property owners proactively address activities on their property that may be subject to these policies in the future.

View the Draft Plan:

Online at http://www.mrsourcewater.ca

At our Conservation Authority Offices:
Mississippi Valley Conservation – 4175 Highway 511, Lanark
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority – 3889 Rideau Valley Dr, Manotick

At our open houses (details below)
Request a DVD copy (contact information below)

Attend an Open House (all open houses are 4 pm to 8 pm)

April 19 – Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (3889 Rideau Valley Drive, Manotick)
April 24 – Carleton Place Arena (75 Neelin Street, Carleton Place)
April 26 – Smiths Falls Memorial Centre (75 Cornelia Street, Smiths Falls)

 Where Policies Would Apply

There are 11 locations in the Mississippi-Rideau region where rivers or groundwater are a source of municipal drinking water – these are the areas where policies will apply and funding is available:

•         Almonte
•         Carleton Place
•         Carp
•         Kemptville
•         Merrickville
•         Munster
•         Perth
•         Richmond
•         Smiths Falls
•         Urban Ottawa
•         Westport

 What Activities Policies Would Address

The following types of activities could be subject to policies in the areas listed above. These are activities that must be carefully managed near sources of drinking water to prevent contamination.

•         Waste disposal sites
•         Municipal sewage works
•         Septic systems
•         Pesticides
•         Commercial fertilizer
•         Nutrients (manure, biosolids, livestock)
•         Heating oil (furnace tanks)
•         Liquid fuel (gas stations, yard tanks)
•         Road salt and snow storage
•         Chemicals (DNAPLs and organic solvents)

More information:     Sommer Casgrain-Robertson,
Co-Project Manager, Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Region

613-692-3571 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 1147
sommer.robertson@mrsourcewater.ca
www.mrsourcewater.ca

RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study

Via: RBC Blue Water Project

TORONTO, March 22, 2012 — Canadians believe that maintaining our drinking water supply is one of the most important areas for government funding (behind hospitals and tied with schools). Yet, more than 80 per cent feel there is no need for major and immediate investment in their community’s drinking water/wastewater facilities, which they believe to be in good condition, and in need of only minor investment for upkeep. Ironically, more than a third of Canadians (37 per cent) who use municipal water are not very aware of the condition of the water and sewage infrastructure serving their own home.

“Canadians believe in the safety of their drinking water and assume that the infrastructure that provides it is efficient,” says Bob Sandford, Chair, Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade. “This is a national ‘pipe dream’ because in many municipalities, water distribution and sewage pipes can be up to 80 years old and have already reached the end of their service life. In fact, reports have shown there is an $88-billion investment required to repair and build new water infrastructure in communities across Canada.”

According to the fifth annual RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, more than three-quarters of respondents (78 per cent) stated their main source of water comes from the municipal water supply. While the majority felt that their municipalities were doing a good job at maintaining current water and sewage systems to prevent breakages in the short term (68 per cent), they were less impressed with the municipalities’ work on upgrading these systems for the long term (61 per cent). However, only a quarter (22 per cent) would be willing to pay through a water bill or taxes into an infrastructure fund to upgrade drinking water/wastewater facilities in their community.

“Investments in water infrastructure maintenance are chronically underfunded and often deferred. This is causing a multitude of issues not immediately associated in the minds of Canadians with water quality and supply,” notes Sandford.

More than half of Canadians (54 per cent) have been inconvenienced by a water related issue in the past two years. A backed-up drain, boil-water warnings, water bans/use restrictions or closed beaches due to poor water quality tell a larger story of the disconnect between Canadians’ confidence in water quality and infrastructure, and the issues that they are actually facing.

“All of these inconveniences highlight the failing infrastructure in many Canadian municipalities. What may seem like minor issues in our own backyards represents a larger problem with regard to our country’s water,” says Sandford. “We have found that Canadians are confident in freshwater as a lasting resource but don’t understand the potential impact inconsistent infrastructure maintenance can have on the supply, quality and cost of water.”

Canadians’ level of confidence in the safety and quality of the country’s drinking water has increased significantly over the past four years to 88 per cent in 2012, up from 81 per cent in 2009. This confidence helps explain why almost half of Canadians (49 per cent) believe freshwater is the country’s most important natural resource, with the exception of Albertans who ranked oil first, followed by fresh water. Eighty-one per cent of the population feels confident that their regions have enough fresh water to meet long-term needs.

And, while respondents reported that they try to conserve water, they also take it for granted. Almost half leave the water running in the kitchen when washing and rinsing dishes (44 per cent), while 12 per cent hose down their driveways, and 14 per cent admit to flushing things down the toilet that should be disposed of in another manner.

Study results in water infograph

Chris Coulter, GlobeScan’s president, adds

“We have been polling on water issues for 25 years. This survey is a tale of romance between Canadians and their treasured water. But there’s a significant gap between romance and reality. We found a troubling lack of awareness not only about water conservation but also the very pressing need for investment in infrastructure. Mobilizing the political will to deal with these issues will be a challenge.”

2012 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study: Additional highlights 

Following are additional highlights from the 2012 RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study, which has tracked Canadians’ perceptions and attitudes towards water quality and conservation since 2008.

Water consumption behaviours

  • Two-thirds of Canadians (66 per cent) always turn off the water while brushing their teeth (70 per cent female; 61 per cent male);
  • Almost half (48 per cent) avoid watering their lawns in the summer (55 per cent female; 40 per cent male);
  • Many Canadians have installed low-flow shower heads (47 per cent) and water-efficient toilets (42 per cent) in their homes;
  • Four-in-ten respondents regularly choose tap water over bottled water in restaurants;
  • Of the typical sources of drinking water at home, Canadians drink tap water (48 per cent), filtered tap water (27 per cent), water from a large jug/cooler (11 per cent) and individually-sized bottled water (nine per cent).

Top five things people do that upset Canadians the most about water usage

  1. Water their lawns when it has just rained, is raining or about to rain (48 per cent)
  2. Flush things down the toilet that should be disposed of in another manner (29 per cent)
  3. Hose down their driveway (24 per cent)
  4. Leave a faucet running in a public place (19 per cent)
  5. Use soap or shampoo to bathe in a lake (18 per cent)

Top five things Canadians admit they have knowingly done themselves

  1. Left water running in the kitchen when washing and rinsing dishes (44 per cent)
  2. Left water on while brushing teeth (42 per cent)
  3. Allowed soapy water to run down a storm drain (18 per cent)
  4. Flushed things down the toilet that should have been disposed of in another manner (14 per cent)
  5. Hosed down driveway (12 per cent)

About the RBC Canadian Water Attitudes Study
These are some of the findings of a GlobeScan poll conducted between February 1-15, 2012, on behalf of RBC and sponsored by the UN Water for Life Decade. A sample of 2,428 adult Canadians from an online panel were interviewed. Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The margin of error for a strict probability sample for a sample of this size would be ±2.0 percent, 19 times out of 20. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error, including, but not limited to sampling error, coverage error and measurement error.

About the RBC Blue Water Project
The RBC Blue Water Project is an innovative, wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world’s most precious natural resource: fresh water. It includes a $50 million philanthropic commitment to organizations that protect watersheds and ensure access to clean drinking water. The RBC Blue Water Project also promotes responsible water use through awareness programs and supports programs that encourage businesses to develop and commercialize innovative solutions to the water issues facing the world. Since 2007, RBC has pledged over $32 million to more than 450 not-for-profit organizations worldwide that protect watersheds or ensure access to clean drinking water. For more information, rbc.com/bluewater.

About Canadian Partnership Initiative of the United Nations Water for Life Decade
The United Nations Water for Life Decade is a globally proclaimed decade for action on water quality and availability issues. While each country in the world will be focusing on its own water quality and availability issues within the larger context of the global fresh water situation, the Canadian initiative has been defined by a nation-wide public and private sector partnership aimed at identifying and responding to regional and national water issues. The United Nations Water for Life initiative in Canada exists to put Canadian water issues into a global context. The Canadian United Nations Water for Life partnership initiative is housed, and has its research home in the Western Watersheds Climate Research Collaborative at the Biogeosciences Institute at the University of Calgary.

About GlobeScan
GlobeScan delivers evidence, insights, and ideas that build value for clients through stronger stakeholder relationships. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand, and sustainability, GlobeScan combines rigorous research with creative and challenging thinking to instill trust, drive engagement, and inspire innovation within, around, and beyond our clients’ organizations. For more information, visit www.globescan.com.

Water Law: Public Trust May Be Fresh Approach to Protecting Great Lakes

By Keith Schneider
Via: Circle of Blue

January 17, 2012 WASHINGTON, D.C. Maude Barlow, a 64-year-old author and activist from Ottawa, is chairperson of the Council of Canadians, one of that country’s most influential public interest organizations. She has spent a globally prominent career advocating for clean water, environmental protection, and fairer trade deals for the Great Lakes region.

James Olson, a 66-year-old attorney from Traverse City, Michigan, is an expert in American environmental law who challenged Nestle’s authority to bottle Michigan’s groundwater in a 2003 case that spurred an eight-state pact in 2008 to block big diversions of water from the Great Lakes.

Now the two advocates, driven by their shared allegiance to the security of the Great Lakes, have teamed up to develop and promote the biggest idea of their careers. They are intent on applying two ancient governing and legal principles — defining the Great Lakes as a shared “commons,” protected by the public trust doctrine — to reverse the deteriorating condition of the largest system of fresh surface water on earth.

On December 13, Barlow and Olson took a momentous first step toward their goal when they spent 75 minutes formally introducing the concept to the Canadian and American leaders of the International Joint Commission (IJC), a bilateral agency founded in 1909 to help manage the Great Lakes and other waters that cross the boundaries of the two countries. It was the first time that a framework for managing the Great Lakes as a commons had been presented at such a high government level in both nations.

“We were asking the IJC to show leadership, by promoting a new narrative for protecting the Great Lakes,” Barlow added. “They were gracious, warm, and receptive. There was no hostility and a great deal of interest in how it would work.”

Frank Bevacqua, the IJC spokesman, said the commissioners would not comment publicly on what they heard. “Our commissioners wish to have the opportunity to discuss the material presented by Barlow and Olson amongst themselves, before giving interviews on the subject,” he said.

The proposal from Barlow and Olson also attracted interest from water law experts outside of government. Paul Simmons — a water law specialist and partner at Somach, Simmons, and Dunn in Sacramento — said in an interview with Circle of Blue that, since a 1983 state Supreme Court case, California has required water suppliers and regulators to consider the public trust implications in decisions involving water allocations from rivers for such things as supplying drinking water or for wildlife conservation.

The biggest question in defining the Great Lakes as a commons subject to public trust principles is how to install such principles in real-world law and regulation, according to Simmons.

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Aquatic Informatics Inc. launches AQUARIUS system

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO — (Marketwire) — 09/16/11 — Aquatic Informatics Inc., a global leader in providing innovative software solutions for water data management and analysis, announced the successful implementation and launch of the AQUARIUS system today at the Water Survey of Canada‘s Thunder Bay office in Ontario, Canada. After a thorough testing period, Thunder Bay is the first of the organization’s 28 offices to switch its complete real-time operations to the AQUARIUS system.
The deployment of AQUARIUS will increase the agency’s efficiency in acquiring, processing, and publishing hydrometric data from its entire national monitoring network. The innovative AQUARIUS system will also provide business productivity tools for Water Survey’s hydrologists and field technicians allowing them to work with larger volumes of data with greater ease.

‘Capabilities such as workflow automation and quick and easy access to a new centralized data storage center are but two of the new benefits that the AQUARIUS system brings to Canada’s largest water agency,’ states Edward Quilty, Founder and CEO of Aquatic Informatics.
Aquatic Informatics’ Australian partner, Greenspan, developed the environmental telemetry solution EnviroSCADA. The large-scale deployment of the AQUARIUS system is integrated with their automated data acquisition system for over 2400 of Water Survey’s continuous water monitoring stations across Canada.

Mark Wolf, Principal Consultant of Greenspan, added that ‘our EnviroSCADA framework leverages the unmatched power, flexibility, and robustness of ClearSCADA, one of the most widely used Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems in the world.’ The data that is collected by EnviroSCADA is then made available through AQUARIUS to over 200 Water Survey technicians and scientists in real-time across Canada.

The Regina Water Survey office will be the next in line to roll out AQUARIUS where its real-time data analysis solutions will be put to through the rigors during the next flood season. From there AQUARIUS will be rolled out to the remaining offices throughout the remainder of 2011.

About Aquatic Informatics Inc.
Aquatic Informatics provides software solutions that address critical water data management and analysis challenges for the rapidly growing environmental monitoring industry. Aquatic Informatics is focused on providing solutions to a range of different customer groups including federal, state/provincial or local government departments, hydropower operators, mining companies, academic groups and consulting organizations, who collect, manage and process large volumes of water quality or quantity data. For more information about Aquatic Informatics, go to http://www.aquaticinformatics.com.

Contacts:
Aquatic Informatics Inc.
Susan Kirk
Marketing Communications
778-294-0064
susan@aquaticinformatics.com
http://www.aquaticinformatics.com

Aboriginal Affairs (INAC): First Nations water supply “at risk”

by Jon Thompson

for Kenora Daily Miner and News, 19 July 2011

More than a third of First Nations communities in the Treaty 3 area have “high risk” drinking water systems, according to a national report released Friday.

The National Assessment of First Nation Water and Waste-water Systems report produced by Neegan Burnside for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs found 72 communities (45 per cent) of Ontario First Nations to have high risk systems, including 10 high risk systems in Treaty 3. Additionally, 61 Ontario communities have “medium risk,” water treatment, including nine in Treaty 3.

“These deficiencies may lead to potential health and safety or environmental concerns,” the report reads, addressing the high risk systems. “They could also result in water quality advisories against drinking the water (such as, but not limited to, boil water advisories), repetitive non-compliance with guidelines, and inadequate water supplies. Once systems are classified under this category, regions and First Nations must take immediate corrective action to minimize or eliminate deficiencies.”

To bring to protocol would cost $228 million including $36 million alone for the Treaty 3 communities. To upgrade all recommended services, the cost in Treaty 3 is estimated at $113 million.

Twenty-eight wastewater systems in Ontario (38 per cent) were also identified as “high risk,” including five in Treaty 3.

The report comes on the heels of a July 7 funding announcement to launch a $5 million pilot project to improve First Nations drinking water systems.

On a national basis, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada provides about $40 million annually for the operation and maintenance of water and wastewater systems. The report tallies $750 million in spending since 1995.

Its authors call for a national database and regional management strategies to prioritize and upgrade systems, provide training, develop emergency response plans, standardize policies, and make First Nations “aware of their roles and responsibilities to protect community water and wastewater systems.”

Ministry spokeswoman, Gale Mitchell pointed out high risk systems do not necessarily mean water quality issues are imminent. She echoed the report’s assertions that variations in the quality and quantity of source water, increased design requirements, the premature ageing of systems, the lack of water source protection, and inadequate operator training and qualifications are impediments to water quality across the country.

“I think we believe health and safety issues are very important and providing safe water to First Nations is part of that agenda,” she said, pointing to S-11, draft Senate legislation from the fall of 2010 calling for a framework and national standards for First Nations water supplies. “There’s a regulatory gap on reserves. There’s no question about that.”

Issues vary across the region with communities on Lake of the Woods like Northwest Angle 33B and Wauzhushk Onigum (Rat Portage) facing nearby source challenges while Grassy Narrows, for example, is downriver from the Domtar mill in Dryden.

“We need a lot of work to be done,” said Larry Keewatin Jr. of the treatment plant in Grassy Narrows. “We need a sedimentation tank for sure. I think we’d be able to (bring water to code) if we had the proper stuff.”

Operations and maintenance manager at Washagamis Bay, Vernon Copenace had stern words for what he sees as a culture of disrespect for the environment that causes water contamination.

“Quit mining and selling the water. Quit being so greedy. We need that survive. Quit biting the hand that feeds you. Put that in the news and see what they say.”

For an interactive map of water systems in the region, visit http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=211461320014353099859.0004a85dbdcefae2b5cfe&ie=UTF8&ll=49.385343,-92.907772&spn=2.025342,4.417534

TorStar Insight: Lake of shame; Ontario’s Pollution Problem

Published On Fri Jul 8 2011 for Toronto Star

Viagra in the water, fish unfit to eat, environmental standards ignored. Critics say parts of Lake Ontario are ‘as bad as it’s ever been.

Just below the soaring Scarborough Bluffs, 17-month old Piper Clark scoops the fine sand into gloppy pies. Her brother Reed, 4, bravely ventures deeper into the water.

Around them on this hot summer day, bikini-clad girls frolic and tease boys in the waves, while the lifeguard warns them from straying too far out.

Colonies of swallows, warily eyeing the hawks soaring above, cling to the sandy face of the cliff.

Colleen Clark, a nurse, stands watch over her toddlers, her feet in the water, her dress hitched up above her knees.

“Oh sure, I let them go in,” she says, pointing to the green flag indicating the water is safe. “But I wouldn’t let them drink it.”

A few kilometres west of Bluffer’s Park, just below the Gardiner, two adult geese paddle around Keating Channel with their four fluffy goslings

That’s where the Don River spills into Toronto Harbour, spewing sewage as it flows.

It’s also where heavy trucks rumble on their way to the Leslie Spit to dump their loads of asphalt and rusty steel, bricks and rebar — what the city calls “clean fill.”

A boom spreads just beneath the trees where the geese shelter, there to catch the “floatables,” the used condoms, plastic tampon applicators and hypodermic needles that bob among the mini-explosions of methane bubbles.

Unlike Colleen Clark, Mother Goose can’t read the menace in the soupy black water.

Mark Mattson, president of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a criminal lawyer turned, appropriately enough, environmental lawyer, surveys the scene and says, “I’ve been investigating the channel for 20 years, and this is as bad as it’s ever been.

“These carp go all over the lake, the birds migrate,” continues Mattson, as one of the geese elegantly dips its beak into the water. “They’re still part of the diet of northern communities. I wouldn’t want to be the hunter who shoots one of these geese and feeds it to his children.”

This, folks, is your water, what comes out of your tap, what you drink, what you bathe in and, if you aren’t lucky enough to have a cottage, what you swim in.

Some 4 1/2 million humans who have made their homes around Lake Ontario depend on this water — as does the wildlife on, in, above and around it.

“It’s our only source of drinking water,” says Mattson. “We’re very fortunate because, unlike so many other cities, Boston, New York, Vancouver, they don’t have their drinking water at the bottom of their street.

“But think about it: if Lake Ontario became undrinkable, if we had a Fukushima disaster at one of Ontario’s 21 reactors, there would be no alternative potable drinking water. We’d have to build a pipeline to Lake Huron or James Bay or something.”

Lake Ontario is the 14th largest lake in the world: 19,529 square kilometres, 1,146 kilometres of shoreline, 244 metres at its deepest.

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