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.
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
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