Recent News Entries

08/13/2014

Save the date! Lake Ontario Evenings Microplastics edition November 4!

Save the date for our next Lake Ontario Evening. On November 4th, 2014 the emerging issue of microplastics will be presented by leading Canadian researchers. This event will be held at the Gladstone hotel. Doors open at 6, presentations begin at 630. Hope to see you there!

05/23/2014

Lake Ontario Evening: Alien Invaders of the Great Lakes Edition!

Join us for the June 2nd Lake Ontario Evening: Alien Invaders of the Great Lakes Edition!

05/09/2014

Save the Date: Lake Ontario Evenings "Alien Invaders of the Great Lakes" Edition

The alien invaders are here and taking over! Do you know what this means to the health and economy of Lake Ontario? Please join us for the third edition of Lake Ontario Evenings 2014 "Alien Invaders of the Great Lakes" to find out!

03/18/2014

Lake Ontario Evenings: Hidden Secrets of the Lake

What historic treasures lie below the waves and along the shores of Lake Ontario? Want to find out? Come on out to the second edition of Lake Ontario Evenings 2014!

01/31/2014

Remedial Action Plan Re-designation Reports

The Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan is in the process of re-designating two impaired beneficial uses, Degradation of Benthos and Restrictions on Dredging, from ?impaired? to ?not impaired?.

12/04/2013

Save the date! Lake Ontario Evenings: "Weathering the Storms" Edition

Do you remember the massive flood this summer that left parts of Toronto underwater? Lake Ontario Evenings: "Weathering the Storms" will take place the evening of Monday January 21. 2014 at the Gladstone Hotel. Doors open at 6:00pm. All are welcome

03/05/2013

Lake Ontario Evenings: Bottoms Up! The Food Web Edition

Lake Ontatio Evenings: Bottoms Up! The Food Web Edition will take place the evening of Monday March 18 at the Gladstone Hotel. Doors open at 6:00pm. All are welcome

11/05/2012

Lake Ontario Evenings: Tommy Thompson Park Edition!

Lake Ontario Evenings: Tommy Thompson Park Edition will take place the evening of Tuesday November 13 at the Gladstone Hotel. Doors open at 6:00 pm. All are welcome.

07/17/2012

RAP review and update - second round sortings now available for review

The second draft sorting that links Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Goals to specific environmental issues (or Beneficial Use Impairments) is now available...

06/21/2012

Ontario Great Lakes Protection Act announced for review!

On June 6, 2012, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment released the Draft Great Lakes Strategy and Draft Great Lakes Protection Act...

The Toronto and Region Remedial Action Plan is managed by representatives from Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

International Joint Commission Beneficial Use Impairment Criteria

Summary table of Beneficial Use Impairments in the Toronto and Region Area of Concern.

Beneficial Use Impairment Status of Toronto and Region AOC
Eutrophication or undesirable algae Impaired
Beach closings Impaired
Restrictions on fish or wildlife consumption Impaired
Degradation of benthos Impaired
Restrictions on dredging activities Impaired
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat Impaired
Degradation of fish and wildlife populations Impaired
Degradation of aesthetics Impaired

Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities

Requires further assessment
Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems Not impaired

Fish tumours or other deformities

Not impaired
Restrictions-drinking water consumption-taste/odor problems Not impaired
Added costs to agriculture or industry Not impaired
Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor Not impaired

 

Identified Beneficial Use Impairments in the Toronto and Region Area of Concern and associated International Joint Commission (IJC) guidelines for changing a BUI classification from "impaired" to "not impaired" (delisting).

Beneficial Use Impairment
(Status of Toronto and Region AOC)
Stage 1 Analysis
(1989)
Progress/Status
(Moving Forward, 2007)
Delisting Guideline
(IJC, 1991)
Eutrophication or undesirable algae
(Impaired)
Phosphorus often exceeds Provincial Water Quality
Guideline of 0.02 mg/L across the waterfront.
Algal and weed problems are restricted to the western shoreline
because of a lack of suitable substrate and wave action in other areas.

Phosphorus levels in the watersheds frequently exceed the PWQO. Along the waterfront, phosphorus levels generally meet the PWQO.

Algal growth continues to be a problem along the waterfront, especially in the western part of the AOC.

Mixed. Improvement in regulations; however, complex issues in nearshore have exacerbated levels of nutrients.

When there are no persistent water quality problems (e.g. dissolved oxygen depletion of bottom waters, nuisance algal blooms or accumulation decreased water clarity, etc.) attributed to cultural eutrophication.
Beach Closings
(Impaired)
Frequent beach closings as a result of stormwater and CSO contamination

City of Toronto now has seven beaches that have been awarded international Blue Flag status, recognizing their good water quality.

City of Toronto beaches are posted due to high bacterial levels from multiple sources.
Microbial trackdown helps pinpoint the sources (i.e sewage, birds, pets, etc.).

Wastewater infrastructure improvements (ie. construction of the Western and Eastern tunnels) also helps improve water quality at Toronto beaches as does educating residents as to the implications of feeding the birds.

Better understanding of the sources of bacteria has helped improve management of the beaches. 

When waters, which are commonly used for total-body contact or partial body-contact recreation, do not exceed standards, objectives, or guidelines for such use.
Restrictions on fish or wildlife consumption
(Impaired)
Human consumption advisories exist for the larger sizes of several
species because of mercury, PCB and mirex levels. Evidence indicates that this is not attributable to local causes and needs to be dealt with on a lake-wide level.

Levels of contaminants have decreased since the 1980s but the rate of decrease has slowed in the last decade.

Consumption advisories persist; generally the larger sizes of some fish species and top predators are of more concern due to the bioaccumulation of toxics. Mercury, PCBs, dioxins and furans cause major consumption restrictions throughout Lake Ontario, further assessment is needed to confirm that these advisories are due to lakewide concern rather than a regional one.

While contaminant levels have declined somewhat;
Health Canada recently issued more stringent consumption guidelines pertaining to PCBs, dioxin and furans.

When contaminant levels in fish and wildlife populations do not exceed current standards, objectives or guidelines, and no public health advisories are in effect for human consumption of fish or wildlife. Contaminant levels in fish and wildlife must not be due to contaminant input from the watershed.
Degradation of benthos
(Impaired)

Benthic communities in embayments and near river mouths are dominated by species indicative of organic enrichment. Densities are lower than in the past, suggesting some improvement.

Benthos bioaccumulate metals and trace organics.

In the watersheds, impairment of benthic communities varies, with Highland Creek showing the most impairment and the Rouge and Humber Rivers showing the least.

Along the waterfront impairment of benthic communities is still seen in areas enriched with nutrients (e.g., near CSOs, in the Keating
Channel and in Ashbridge's Bay).

Monitoring programs are in place to obtain better data and determine trends

When the benthic macroinvertebrate community structure does not significantly diverge from unimpacted control sites of comparable physical and chemical characteristics. Further, in the absence of community structure data, this use will be considered restored when toxicity of sediment-associated contaminants is not significantly higher than controls.
Restrictions on dredging activities
(Impaired)
Sediments in most embayment areas exceed Ontario's open water disposal guidelines. Dredging has been subject to Environmental Assessment in the past and is likely to be in the future.

Contaminant levels have improved in surficial sediments.

When navigational dredging is required, contaminant levels and bioavailability is sampled to determine if material is required to be contained in the Confined Disposal Facility in Tommy Thompson Park.

Dredgeate which meets guidelines is used in the creation of waterfront parks. Hotspots of contaminated sediment are often associated with sewer outfalls.

Some progress made since 1989.

When contaminants in sediments do not exceed standards, criteria, or guidelines such that there are restrictions on dredging or disposal activities.
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
(Impaired)
Historic loss of habitat. Loss of riverine habitat continues. Contamination of existing or newly created habitats is of concern.

Watersheds: Uplands and upstream riverine habitat continues to decline due to urbanization, in particular in headwater or intermittent streams; however, regulations have recently been strengthened to better protect floodplains and wetlands from development.

Waterfront: Habitat improvement and creation are major considerations of the waterfront revitalization effort, resulting in significant gains in fish and wildlife habitat.

Mixed. Gains from habitat restoration and creation are outweighed by continued urbanization.
Need to improve tracking of habitat gains and losses.

When the amount and quality of physical, chemical, and biological habitat required to meet fish and wildlife management goals have been achieved and protected.
Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
(Impaired)
Historic degradation and loss of species dating back to the 1800s. Continued impact from urbanized area today.

Fish and wildlife populations continue to decline in general due to the impacts of urbanization in the watersheds. This is being partly offset through stream restoration, wetland creation and barrier mitigation projects.

However, of the 243 species found in the RAP Region 128 are of Regional concern.

Declining. Gains from habitat restoration and creation are outweighed by continued urbanization.

When environmental conditions support healthy, self-sustaining communities of desired fish and wildlife at predetermined levels of abundance that would be expected from the amount and quality of suitable physical, chemical and biological habitat present.

An effort must be made to ensure that fish and wildlife objectives for Areas of Concern are consistent with Great Lakes ecosystem objectives and Great Lakes Fishery Commission fish community goals.

Further, in the absence of community structure data, this use will be considered restored when fish and wildlife bioassays confirm no significant toxicity from water column or sediment contaminants.

Degradation of aesthetics
(Impaired)
Aesthetic concerns relate primarily to debris and litter.
Turbidity is also a concern near river mouths and in the vicinity of lakefilling operations.
Weed growth is a concern along the western shoreline.

No formal assessment done.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that algae growth continues
to be a problem, especially along the western shoreline. While water appears "clearer" it is due to the invasive and problematic zebra and quagga mussels.
Several initiatives are on-going to help improve aesthetics (namely debris and litter clean-ups).

Some progress made since 1989.

When the waters are devoid of any substance which produces a persistent objectionable deposit, unnatural color or turbidity, or unnatural odor (e.g. oil slick, surface scum).
Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities
(Requires further assessment)
Requires more assessment.
Lake-wide factors, physical factors and local pollution sources influence communities.
Information is currently insufficient to determine the relative significance of local sources. 
Definitive assessment has not been done.
Requires further Assessment.
When phytoplankton and zooplankton community structure does not significantly diverge from unimpacted control sites of comparable physical and chemical characteristics. Further, in the absence of community structure data, this use will be considered restored when phytoplankton and zooplankton bioassays confirm no significant toxicity in ambient waters.