The province has approved a duo of detailed plans that aim to protect the drinking water of those living in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA)
The pair of source protection plans, one for the Credit Valley, Toronto and Region and Central Lake Ontario (CTC) area, and the Halton-Hamilton area, both aim to protect municipal water sources from future threats.
The new policies included in these documents come into effect at the end of this year and may force municipalities to look further into, and create management plans for, how such things as manure, biosolids or commercial fertilizers can impact their water supply.
Providing more information to citizens on maintaining septic systems, or the best practices for applying commercial fertilizers, pesticides or road salt are also included in these plans.
For Patricia Lowe, director of stewardship, education and communication at the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA), it is important to address these risks as they all impact drinking water.
“Water contamination from spills, if you’re using too much fertilizer, or misusing fertilizer…they’re going on the land, the water still goes into our creeks, it impacts habitat and eventually gets to Lake Ontario, which is where we get our water from,” Lowe explains.
The CTC source protection plan identifies the most vulnerable areas in need of protection.
In Oshawa, this includes a pair of what are labeled as intake protection zones, where water is pulled into municipal systems (which is handled by the Region of Durham) from Lake Ontario.
Other vulnerable areas include wellhead protection areas around municipal wellheads, two of which exist in Uxbridge.
Lowe says the new plans are a good step and another layer of protection to keep municipalities mindful of their drinking water.
“When I think about Oshawa, the decisions makers will continue to practice due diligence that we have come to expect here anyways, and they’re responsible to protect public health when they make decisions about drinking water in Oshawa,” she says.
The catalyst for these plans dates back to the Walkerton inquiry in 2002 following contamination in a municipal well in the town which led to more than 2,000 people falling ill and five deaths from E. coli bacteria in 2000.