Monthly Archives: February 2016

Stormwater Management

stormwater5Canadian municipalities are continually challenged with stormwater management. Policies that do exist from an intergovernmental outlook are not contiguous, there are gaps between the positions of the federal, provincial , and municipal legislation. Municipalities are often trying to manage something that is beyond there scope of knowledge or ability. stormwater2

Municipalities often try to handle their particular situation through implementation of stormwater management objectives in the form of Best Management Practices (BMP).  These management practices are typically learned through guidelines and handbooks. There are three methods of managing stormwater based on the location of the stormwater within the runoff cycle. At the source we have lot-level controls. The aim is to lessen the flow and control the quality of the runoff on site before it reaches the storm sewer system. Conveyance controls are what is done in the actual stormwater systems, for example storm sewers or open channel systems. here the aim is to reduce the flow and control the flow before the water is discharged into the lakes or oceans. Storage of the water attempts to stagger the inflow  of the runoff into the receiving waters so as not to cause flooding. The last method is the end of pipe controls, meaning treatment facilities just before the water is released into the receiving waters. The size of these facilities can depend on the effectiveness of the first two methods. stormwater6

Municipalities all have somewhat unique sets of challenges they have to face based on their own location in a specific watershed. The Stormwater Management Planning and Design Manual provides a base guideline and then each municipality tailors there approach. StormWater

A important idea is that is easier to address a problem at it’s source than to have to restore a harmed ecosystem. Municipalities and developers are trying to look at better lot level controls, but hard evidence of exactly what to do and what works best is sparse or inconclusive. Other considerations in source control are lack of municipal control over private property, and how the controls are perceived by the public. Do the public back the effort or are the efforts a nuisance?

Urban stormwater management is never straight forward, involving many stakeholders with possibly differing priorities. Outreach and education is critical. Projects and costs have to be understood. Apathy and opposition are possible. Balancing municipal objectives and public involvement is an ongoing challenge, a breach of public trust is a difficult act to undo.

Stormwater Management:

At present, when designing a new stormwater management system historical weather patterns are used to predict what is going to be required. Little or no consideration is given to the effect of climate change, the potential impact could be huge , but is not fully understood.

Permeable Pavement:

Regulatory agencies have their work cut out for them. An integrated approach to planning and implementation is crucial. Economic, social, and environmental concerns need to be addressed by various levels of government and across various disciplines.

Can clean-tech save Lake Erie

Alga 3Lake Erie is experiencing increasingly frequent algal blooms. In 2011 it had it’s worst cyanobacteria bloom in decades. In 2014 Toledo, Ohio declared a state of emergency for 500,000 citizens due to high levels of algal toxins in the city’s water supply. Phosphorus is the reason why.Alga

Some 11 million people rely on the lake for drinking water, and with a broad economic impact the Canadian and U.S. governments have responded. Agreements have been signed to reduce phosphorus inputs into the western end of Lake Erie by 40% over the next 10 yrs. Succeeding here is important as phosphorus management is a key goal in Lake Winnipeg, the Fraser Valley, Lake Simcoe, and other watersheds where water quality is a concern.

Alga2It is recognized that the agricultural sector has a lot to do with improving and managing their industry better. Waste water treatment plants, storm water overflow discharges, and other source points can make significant contributions.


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Let’s look at a few new technologies that are being developed.

Ostara Nutrient Technologies has developed a process that uses modern biological techniques that involve bacteria that feast on phosphorus. Phosphorus and nitrogen are removed from the waste stream, and through their process they are left with a highly pure fertilizer granules. These are dried and packaged as Crystal Green, formulated to release nutrients as plants grow.

Southern Ontario has a large concentration of greenhouses..many discharging waste water with nutrient concentrations higher than provincial water quality objectives. In 2014 the provincial govt. the U of Waterloo, and a few private companies banded together to address green house water pollution. the initial application of their work was proven to remove more than 95% of nitrogen and 60 % of phosphorous. If commercialized the new technology could be the answer.

Urban areas are a significant contributor to phosphorous loading. Pet waste, lawn fertilizers, and storm water overflows play a role in damaging water quality. Imbrium Systems is an Ontario firm that has developed a membrane, Jellyfish Filter, that filters out debris, oil, phosphorous, and other pollutants. Imbrium has also developed Sorbitive Media, a course sand designed to absorb and retain large amounts of phosphorous.

Understanding Lake Erie and Algae Blooms.

It looks like solutions are being developed that can enhance and support the natural processes. Sustainable solutions are becoming available.


mIcrobeadsMicrobeads are tiny synthetic polymers commonly used as exfoliants in cleansers , toothpaste, and lotions. They are not dangerous in topical use but once washed down the drain, these beads are to often too small to be caught by municipal  water treatment filters. Potentially, this allows them to sink to the bottom of our lakes, rivers, and oceans get consumed by fish, and begin working back up the food chain to us. Microbeads3

There appears to be no solid proof that micro beads pose a threat to our health but synthetic chemical compounds  that can collect on on the beads have been suggested to be linked to cancer and birth defects.

Microbeads: The Story of Stuff:

There is a larger microplastic issue of which micro beads are a part of. Microplastics in the Great Lakes and the Toronto area are being studied. Samples with 750 mililitres of water were taken and sent to the lab. Every sample taken contained plastic fibers and beads. Some samples had more than 100 pieces of visible microplastics, while further study will determine the amount of unseen particles.Microbeads 2

Governments across North America are concerned about the impact of micro plastics in our water. The Canadian House of Commons approved a proposal in July 2015 to put micro beads on the list of toxic substances under the Environmental Protection Act. Illinois, New Jersey, and California have passed legislation  banning the production and sale of microbeads by 2018 and 2019.


Plastic microbeads pile up into problems for the Great Lakes:

Looks like we are heading in the right direction on this…too bad the downside of these products was not picked up earlier.

A Plan to Store Nuclear Waste

Bruce2 Nuclear energy constituted 16.8% of Canada’s energy mix in 2014. There are stockpiles of nuclear waste with more adding up as we go. What to do with the radioactive waste whether low, medium or high levels of toxcicity are present.

There is a plan to bury low and intermediate level radioactive waste deep in the limestone rock on the site of the Bruce Power nuclear plant by  Lake Huron. This facility would be the first of its kind in North America. Indeed, the first to store nuclear waste in a host rock formation of limestone.  The vision is of 75 football fields of storage space at the bottom of 2 vertical shafts deeper than the CN Tower is high. The risks of storing this material on the surface are greater than if they were stored underground. The rocks in the area are very stable, and have remained stable over the past million years and 9 glaciations. It would take a drop of water 10million years to move 1 meter at the repository level.Finnish model

Several Bruce area councils and the local Municipality of Kincardine have endorsed the $1 billion project. Jobs would be created and host fees would be paid. The down side is that if there were any leakage issues, a huge watershed could be affected, risking the drinking water of millions of people. Some of the medium level waste can contain Carbon 14 and Cobalt 60. Carbon 14 has a half-life 5,700 years, and can potentially turn into a gaseous form and escape through ventilation shafts. This possibility still needs in-depth study.  There can be no short cuts in the design, construction, disposal, closure , and monitoring.

Jim Masse  NDP critic voices concern..

The best way to handle nuclear waste is not to have any at all..but the reality is that we do have nuclear waste needs now and into the future. Burying the waste deep in Canadian limestone is not without risk, but storing the waste on the surface has more downside.

Australia Nuclear Waste Dumps are Filling.



An Update on Pipe Wall Assessment Technology


Repair and preemptive  maintenance is one of the difficulties of asset management. Municipalities  require screening tools to check on the condition of their assests in the ground..for instance metallic water pipes.  This need to maintain and repair can be costly in both time and money.Watermain 3

In response t0 this need Pure Technologies has developed pipe wall assessment (PWA) technology. It is the first inline condition screening tool for metallic pipelines. Two versions of this tool are for shorter distances and one for longer. The latest technologies provide exceptional low resolution data, precision, and control. This provides municipalities with affordable screening in a timely and efficient manner.Watermain 2

Most pipelines in Canada are metal. To maintain Canada’s utility infrastructure will require effective inspection tools. Early detection of a section of pipe being under duress can pay big financial dividends.

A large diameter watermain failure can cost around $8million. With early detection municipalities can get to a problem before it becomes a big problem. Forecasting for budgetary purposes becomes easier. Some leeks can go unseen for years, with every litre of lost water costing the utility.Watermain 5

One can only imagine amount of old water pipes in the ground in Canadian towns and cities that will require service at some point.

Pure SmartBall PWA

Taken from an article in July/August 2015 WaterCanada. Drinking Water: Pipe Wall Assessment Technology, Katie Yantzi.

How Much Ground Water Is There?

ground water pump Nearly all of us depend on ground water for our everyday needs, but how much is there, and how quickly does it recharge? Of all the volumes of fresh and unfrozen water…ground water is the greatest. This is the water that sits between the grains of sand, sandwiched by layers of clay, and flows through cracks in the rocks.

It’s Called Groundwater.

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New research has shown that the global volume of ground water is huge. More than 99% of all fresh  and  unfrozen water on Earth is ground water. Consider , that if we were to extract all the water from the ground and pool it on top like a flood, it would be 180 meters deep over all the continents.groundwater 3


At issue is the length of time rain and melting snow takes to recharge this resource in a human time scale. The new research has shown that only less than 6% of global ground water is replenished in a single human life time, and is renewed greatest in areas of high rainfall and mountains. Many on the planet depend on groundwater for their livelihoods, but live in areas where the renewal rates are slow or not existent.

There are a few implications we need to consider…

We know groundwater is an important resource, and we need to determinate how to manage it best.

Groundwater is vulnerable to pollution and climate change. Changing weather patterns are likely to impact renewal rates in many regions.

A great many of us depend on groundwater for drinking, growing food, produce energy, and to manufacture building materials. Rivers and lakes depend on it.

California’s Drought: Groundwater At Risk

Ground water a resource that needs our attention.



this blog is based on an article in Water Canada Jan/Feb 2016, Ground Control, by Scott Jasechko and Tom Gibson.

Connecting with Water in Ottawa

On the day before the 2014 Ottawa municipal election a candidate was urgently calling the Ecology Ottawa offices, wantecology Ottawaing  the organization to post his environmental positions on it’s web site.


Earlier Ecology Ottawa developed a candidate survey on the group’s primary concerns..including water. The reason for the survey was to see which candidates would make water a priority, not just if they liked clean water. We can all agree that clean water is important, but we have to move beyond blanket statements and find a way to make water advocacy emotive. We all connect with water in some way so let’s use this connection to empower people to enact change.Voting


Many environmental organizations wrestle over policy, only to be met with silence when the blood , sweat , and tears of the organization are published. Being right is not enough. In the lead up to the 2014 election Ecology Ottawa  focused on being seen , heard, and counted..the candidates must know there is a large group that cares about the environment. Policy could come second to being heard and recognized. The candidates could then reach out to that group. The organization’s surveys forced the candidates to clarify their position on water and it’s level of priority.Ottawa City Council Chamber

Founded in 2000, Lake Ontario Waterkeepers wants to create a swimable, fishable, and drinkable future for Lake Ontario.  In looking at what connects people to water they have come up with the Waterkeeper  Swim Guide, a website and  app that gives up to date information on beach swimability. Using this technology they hope to assist with people connecting with the water. Having easier access to water quality information is good , but they want to be heard, to be heard they need more voices.

Both Ecology Ottawa and the Lake Ontario Waterkeepers  are trying to empower the community through collaborative efforts to influence the water discussion. For example, in the Ottawa Municipal election the candidates realized they could not ignore the environmental discussion as survey responses started to be discussed at the election debates.

Gord Downie speaking for a Lake Ontario Waterkeeper project.

The candidate who called Ecology Ottawa the day before the election, wanting his position on the environment to be posted on their web site unfortunately went down to defeat. The winner did have excellent environmental answers on the survey. In fact 17 of the 23 councillors provided great in depth survey answers.

Clean water is now on the table

From an article in Water Canada May/ June 2015, Emotional Connections by Stu Campana.