Water quality issues fall into three categories:
- Water purity(for human health),
- Recreational water quality(also for human health/enjoyment), and,
- the long-term health of the Water Ecosystem.
The Georgian Bay Association strongly supports monitoring programs for all. Septic systems (septic tanks and leaching beds, leach pits and cesspools), grey water systems and storm water runoff can affect human and ecosystem health.
Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) GBA response letter – Sept 11, 2017
In keeping with the 2012 Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a draft 2017 Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) has been prepared, and is currently available for review and comment. The GBA has put together the following response to the Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan 2017-12. The GBA response is here.
The 2017 Lake Huron LAMP is a five-year binational strategy for maintaining and restoring the water quality of Lake Huron and the St. Marys River. The LAMP identifies key priorities, and guides the coordination of binational environmental protection and restoration activities aimed at preserving and protecting the health of Lake Huron’s waters.
The draft LAMP reflects a science-based and shared understanding by members of the Lake Huron Partnership which is made up of Canadian and United States government agencies, and led by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
One of the underlying principles embodied in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, is that we will work in cooperation with State and Provincial Governments, First Nations, Métis, Tribal Governments, Municipal Governments, watershed management and local public agencies, and the public, to successfully meet the commitments under the Agreement.
Drinking Cooking and Swimming
Safety of the waters of Georgian Bay for drinking and swimming is of vital concern to everyone enjoying the Bay. Up until about the 1950s cottagers could safely drink water straight from the Bay. It is now necessary to treat all water intended for drinking by ﬁltration, chemical or heat.
The GBA urges all cottagers, boaters and campers to take measures to ensure their water is safe to consume. All surface water (taken from a river, a stream or a lake rather than from a deep well) in Ontario should be treated to remove bacteria, viruses and parasites.
It should not be necessary to haul (bottled) water from another location as water can be made safe for drinking by heat (at least 68-degrees Celsius), by reverse osmosis or very fine filtration (1 micron), chemical disinfection (usually chlorine), ozone, ultraviolet light.
Ontario is taking action to reduce blue-green algal blooms. The Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Strategy, Lake Simcoe Protection Act, and other programs promote actions that will reduce the amount of nutrients entering Ontario water bodies. If you suspect a blue-green algal bloom, assume toxins are present and call the Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060
Water quality linked to low water levels
Following the dramatic water loss that began in 1999, we began to see the impacts of decreased water exchange and elevated phosphorous in enclosed bays along the coast. When this happens the chances for blue-green algae blooms increase and the water becomes unsafe for drinking, fishing or swimming. Once that happens the problem becomes very difficult to solve, since the de-oxygenated waters result in more phosphorus being released from the decomposing sediments.
Chemicals of Mutual Concern – Triclosan and Triclocarbon
These two products are used alone and together in products such as toothpaste, body washes, bar soap and clothing and even in yoga mats. Late last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it was reconsidering the safety of antibacterial soaps and other antibacterial personal care products because of concerns the chemicals may disrupt human hormones and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. For more information see the CBC article [link to here]. Subsequently, the GBA was asked to sign on as signatory to the Canadian Environmental Law Association’s call for Canadian Government to Prohibit Triclosan in all Consumer Products to Protect the Environment and Human Health. For more information on this important issue – here. For more details on the concerns raised – here.
Update – May 30, 2017 – Further info on Chemicals of Mutual Concern – here\
Cottage Associations and Local Groups take the lead on Shoreline Clean-ups
Recreational Water Quality
Our water should be safe and enjoyable.
Algae blooms or blue-green algae can contain cyanobacteria which can cause harm to human and animal health. If there is an algae bloom do not drink, swim in it or allow pets in the water. If you suspect a blue-green algal bloom, assume toxins are present and call the ministry’s Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060. An article about the Sturgeon Bay experience with algae blooms is here: http://www.georgianbayforever.org/images/Algal_Blooms_web_article.pdf. The State of Washington, Department of Ecology has a good summary of algae control options and can be found at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/wq/plants/algae/lakes/controloptions.html
Being vigilant about reducing nutrients from entering the water important to maintaining the natural chemical balance. See the Primers, Nutrients and your Watershed, and Waste Systems. [could have links here too, please]
Swimmers itch can be troublesome in some areas and is caused from parasites in birds and snails which incidentally “get under our skin”. Rubbing down with a towel after swimming can reduce this itch.
Invasive weeds (Eurasian mill foil for example) can make waters dark, murky and choke out native plants. Avoid breaking the plant up (by propellers) as it propagates just with a tiny piece! And, weed growth is also promoted by an increase in nutrients – another reason to reduce nutrients from entering the lake.
The Georgian Bay Association supports the recommendations by the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve to use the Lake Partner Program for water testing and not to continue with bacterial testing. The Lake Partner Program coordinates and gathers data from 1,000’s volunteers who test lakes in the spring. They test water clarity using a Secchi dish and take samples for low-level Total Phosphorous testing. For information about the program see http://desc.ca/programs/lpp and for mapping of the Lake Partner sites see https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/map-lake-partner
The water ecosystem is vital to long-term health of the watershed. Over the years, GBA has worked with Georgian Bay Township, the Township of the Archipelago, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve and Georgian Bay Forever to set up and maintain on-going studies of the health of the waters of Georgian Bay. We continue to strongly endorse the continuance of these studies and monitor the outcomes closely. To understand our unique ecosystem better watch Karl Schribers video. (link to main GBA page). Watch for the State of Bay report to be coming out sometime in 2017.
The biodiversity of our archipelago makes it unique and allows it to thrive. Invasive species overtake native species and reduce this biodiversity. Phragmites especially prevents other plants from establishing themselves and once a Phragmites stand is mature native reptiles, fish and animals are unable to survive. So, help remove and control Phragmites & other invasive species and report sightings to: www.eddmaps.org/ontario.
Ultimately the health of Georgian Bay depends on our wetlands and our biodiversity. In some areas man-made wetlands are being created to alleviate flooding and drought problems as well as clean the water. See: http://thestarphoenix.com/news/local-news/man-made-wetlands-can-solve-flooding-drought-problems.