Tag Archives: great lakes



The following video, “Ottawa River Keeper”, was uploaded on Mar. 10, 2008, by Lu Utronki.  This video is designed to bring awareness to the importance of the Ottawa River for sustainability. 

The Ottawa River flows through the provinces of Quebec and Ontario for over 1200 kilometres.  There are almost 2 million people who live throughout the Ottawa River watershed.  To the Algonquin First Nations who lived by its banks and traveled by canoe the river was known as the Kitchi-sippi, meaning “The Great River“.  Visitors such as white water paddlers, fishing enthusiasts and river trippers from around the world looking for a wilderness experience  enjoy the Ottawa River year round.  The Ottawa River is a globally significant river and is part of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence watershed, and is the largest freshwater system in the entire world.

Hope to see you back here for our next blog featuring “Ottawa River Keeper Part 2” and “Alexandra Cousteau on the Ottawa River” – a Youtube video published this year on September 14th.



The following excerpts are from WaterCanada, March/April issue
 Message in a Bottle, researchers found warning about plastics in Great Lakes, written by Saul Chernos.

MASONWhen Dr. Sherri Mason and her team cast a net into three Great Lakes last July, scouring for debris, they weren’t sure what to expect. Mason, an associate professor of chemistry with the State University of New York (SUNY), had followed the ongoing saga of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other giant swirls of litter cluttering the oceans and wondered about the situation closer to home. Might the world’s largest body of fresh water be a significant contributor to an alarming phenomenon that has seen highly durable plastics literally stuff the bellies of birds, fish, and other sea creatures? Anxious about the impact that people living within this enormous inland watershed might be having on aquatic life, Mason secured funding, arranged for a boat, and assembled the resources and expertise needed to draw answers from the lakes’ often-choppy waters.
Although the following YouTube video, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, (uploaded by Good Morning America, July 25, 2011) deals with Ocean polution (garbage patches), the concern of the impact on our great lakes is the same.


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not alone in the world, and it is somewhat of a misnomer. There are two major garbage patches in the Pacific – one north, one south – and there are two more in the Atlantic, plus a fifth in the Indian Ocean. Each is located within a major gyre, subservient to its currents. ERIKSONMarcus Eriksen, executive director of the 5 Gyres Institute, has visited each of them, studying their effects on aquatic life. From microscopic bead-like molecules to entire cigarette lighters and water bottles, Eriksen has seen it all – and not always floating or captured in his nets. Three years ago, after finding dead birds with plastic extruding from their decomposing chests, he was moved to launch 5 Gyres to confront this emerging but increasingly striking environmental crisis…

LAKESUPERIOR8Most prevalent, however, were particles microscopic in size. The crew also found that volumes tended to increase as they sailed in the direction of the water flow. “That matched our hypothesis,” Mason explains. “Lake Superior is the beginning of the Great Lakes system, and while a huge number of people live along Superior,
LAKEERIE7 Lake Erie has the most people and the water flows in that direction.” Mason says this suggests a cumulative effect, with the lower lakes likely receiving debris from the upper lakes, leading to concern that what goes into Lake Superior and the other lakes eventually makes its way into the Atlantic Ocean. How is this garbage getting into the lakes in the first place? “It’s from us,” Mason points out. “When you see a bag blowing in the breeze, eventually it’s going to make its way into the lake.” Of equal concern is what’s flushed down toilets and drains… The plastic itself isn’t the only problem. Mason says PCBs, persistent organic pollutants, and other chemicals that end up in the water tend to adsorb onto materials such as plastic. So, even if plastic isn’t the actual killer, aquatic creatures could potentially be affected by poisons clinging to the plastic. PHARMACEUTICALSToxins could also work their way up the food chain, ultimately affecting humans. Mason even worries that the microscopic beads from personal care products and other sources might be bypassing local wastewater treatment systems in much the same way pharmaceuticals are escaping, and that they might even be returning through drinking water intakes. Plastics in municipal facilities Municipal officials overseeing water and wastewater systems agree that the issue of plastics in inland water bodies is only recently coming to light.

London, Ontario draws water from LAKEHURON3both Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The city’s managing director for environmental and engineering services, John Braam, says his drinking water plant’s filters are designed to catch particles larger than two microns. This is well below the 333-micron threshold Mason and her crew captured during their expedition, and Braam is confident the city’s drinking water is free of particles larger than two microns. LONDON'S WATEROn the wastewater side, Braam says he doesn’t know of any municipality – his included – which actively measures wastewater treatment plant outflows for particle content. Still, he’s relatively confident his wastewater treatment systems are catching most plastics, along with other the other contents they’re designed to capture. “Through biologically activated mechanical wastewater treatment plants, most plastics ought to be picked up through the screening or settlement processes,” Braam explains, adding that London has membrane filters designed to .04 which would be effective at removing larger icro-sized particles. As well, he points out that micro-plastic fibres from polyester and other synthetic clothing, which can come off in the wash… While the Ministry isn’t doing any research at the moment about plastics in inland waterways, that could soon change.
“News reports have highlighted the issue, and we’re starting to talk to researchers in the field,” Helm says. “We’re looking at the methods we have in-house that could start addressing whether we could measure the plastics and what partners we would work with if we needed to pursue this. Right now we’re working to put together some context to characterise the issue. If you’re finding plastics then the next step is you want to know where they’re coming from.”…  NEW YORK WASTEWATERThis kind of research could soon be underway. Sherri Mason says she’s preparing to sample four municipal wastewater systems in New York State later this year. Regardless of the outcome of this research, however, Mason believes the key to meaningfully improving the situation—for wildlife, ecosystems, and people—is to address the very prevalence of plastics in our lives. “Plastics were originally designed with the best of intentions—to replace natural products that were becoming rare,” she explains. “We make something, put it on the marketplace, and don’t think about its lifecycle and what will happen to it in the end. All the qualities of plastic that make it so wonderful from a business standpoint also make it a concern from an environmental standpoint. It’s lightweight, durable, and now we have so much of it we don’t have a handle on what to do with it. We’ve become a disposable society. We throw it away, but it doesn’t go away. There is no ‘away.”…


Great Lakes United’s John Jackson on Ontario’s proposed Great Lakes Protection Act, by Meirav Even-Har of Water Canada November/December 2012 issue ~ excerpts ~

With the amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) recently signed between Canada and the United States …Ontario’s proposed Great Lakes Protection Act (Bill 100) comes at a crucial time… The ambitious goal to restore and protect the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin is no easy task. This proposed legislation is meant to enable the revision and implementation of the now expired Canada-Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem to execute the Province’s obligations under the GLWQA. It’s also meant to build on current work and existing laws and regulations to create a new set of tools that will be driven, to some extent, by a local, community based approach to protection.
As an enabling act, the GLPA will allow for the creation of regulations and specific actions based on consultation with stakeholders, government bodies, First Nations and Métis, as well as the public. According to the draft Great Lakes Strategy—a guiding document to accompany the Act—the key elements
to the proposed legislation include setting a direction on Great Lakes, establishing a Great Lakes Guardians’ Council, identifying priorities for action in a strategy, building on existing tools by establishing clear targets, and taking phased, targeted action with geographically focused initiatives… Water Canada: Is this the right time for a Great Lakes Protection Act? John Jackson: The value of a piece of legislation is to draw attention to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River as needing broad serious attention,  not just as part of the overall environmental programs. It recognizes the special importance of the Great Lakes and helps draw attention to them. This legislation should not, however, be seen as the answer to all of the problems in the Great Lakes. The government must still focus on making sure it  implements the already existing legislation and Agreements such as the Water Conservation Act and the Great Lakes-St Lawrence River Water Sustainability Agreement with the U.S. Great Lakes states. How will the proposed Act work with current binational management of the Lakes? The Bill commits Ontario to participate in the binational activities and to play a leadership role. This is a very important step forward, since, with the  exception of the Water Sustainability Agreement, the provincial attendees at binational meetings tend to take more of an observer role rather than being active participants. This is a problem that I hope this will help us overcome. What lessons, if any, have we learned? What needs to happen to protect and restore the Great Lakes? We need new long-term  financial commitments by the federal and provincial and state governments to implementing Great Lakes programs and to monitoring and assessing progress. Instead we are confronted by all governments making promises while reducing the amount of staff and scientists working on the issue, et cetera. The new Ontario bill makes no financial commitments. This is a  serious problem. We need commitments by all governments to strengthen legislation and regulations if needed. Unfortunately, all levels of government are now stepping back from strengthening anything that is a non-voluntary program. We need more serious engagement by the government of stakeholders and the public in decision-making on Great Lakes matters. This bill includes components that, if properly implemented, could be important steps forward on this matter.

Meirav Even-Har is a sustainability consultant and writer. She is also 3RCertified program manager at the recycling Council of Ontario.

Link ~ http://watercanada.net/


Water Art

WaterCanada, September 7, 2011, Written by Kerry Freek, Editor

Toronto’s newest stormwater system is breathtaking.
Housed in the pavilion basement at Sherbourne Common, a new park in the city’s rapidly developing East Bayfront area, the treatment facility cleans collected storm and lake water with ultraviolet (UV) light. The treated water is then sent underground to the north side of the park where it is released through three nine-metre-high art sculpture towers. The water flows from the tops of the towers down metal mesh veils and into a 240-metre-long water channel, or urban river, where it then flows into Lake Ontario.
Artist Jill Anholt’s Light Showers water towers are lit at night; as people move over the bridge of the water channel, motion sensors trigger shifting light patterns in the water as it falls from the sculptures. The mesh veils of the art sculptures are designed to capture water in the winter to form unique ice patterns.
Regardless of its attractiveness, the system and others like it have elicited some blowback from critics, especially in a time when many municipalities are worried about growing infrastructure deficits. Are the extra features necessary? Anholt’s sculptures don’t contain UV lamps and play only a minor role in the treatment process—they provide further aeration and act as a conduit to bring treated water to raised pools.
While some people may criticize Waterfront Toronto’s choice, others believe the art is a worthwhile investment. Waterfront Toronto chair Mark Wilson sees it as a catalyst for the further development of the East Bayfront neighbourhood. “The park has already helped us attract private and public sector partners who are working with us to transform this former industrial area into a dynamic new community,” he says. The City plans to recover the cost for the art feature—$1.9 million—through development fees as part of Waterfront Toronto’s public art strategy.
Others argue that making infrastructure visible is important to public understanding. During last April’s Out of Water: Sustaining Development in Arid Climates conference at the University of Toronto. (see “In the Eye of the Beholder,” a blog post at watercanada.net), one audience member said water infrastructure is often designed to blend with the environment. “Often, we don’t even know it’s there—but is that a good thing?” she asked. Maybe it’s important, she posited, that we see, recognize, and feel comfortable with the mechanisms that allow us to maintain the lives we’re accustomed to living and, at a basic level, survive.
During a presentation at the Ecocity World Summit this August in Montreal, Concordia University graduate student Cecilia Chen discussed the importance of mapping the flows of streams and aquifers beneath and around urban spaces to increase awareness that cities are, in some ways, nothing more than watersheds. Water’s role in an urban ecosystem, she said, goes unrecognized because it travels underground and out of sight. It’s only when a storm drain overflows and what she calls “hybrid water” becomes visible that awareness increases.
James Roche, director, parks design and construction for Waterfront Toronto, isn’t interested in separating infrastructure, landscape, and public space. “There’s more to gain from combining these fields,” he says. Roche says we ignore water’s important, though background, role in commerce and cities. “It changes how we live on a daily basis. The Sherbourne Common design helps to bring water back into the public realm.” … Sherbourne Common serves as a reminder of the role water plays in our lives.

Water art is a great way to promote and bring awareness to this sometimes forgotten treasure. Filtration systems and UV lights are used to clean up the water for the displays before shown to the public. Modern day art may bring people to think about where run off from highways, storm sewers and industrial pollution actually goes…



BLAME IT ON THE RAIN – by Rebecca Taggart – Water Canada Jan/Feb, 2010 article

Acid rain leaves its mark in Canada’s freshwater lakes.

Calcium deficiency is commonly considered an ailment of the elderly.  However, many of Canada’s freshwater lakes are now being diagnosed with a similar condition.

Calcium levels in many of Canada’s freshwater lakes are dropping.  Just as it’s necessary for a healthy human body, calcium is also essential for supporting life in aquatic ecosystems.

Environment Canada scientists are involved in collaborative research that sheds light on a pattern of calcium loss in our small lakes and wetlands.  For almost 30 years, samples were collected from lakes across south-eastern Canada to monitor chemical levels in ecosystems sensitive to acid rain.  In an assessment of chemical changes from 770 Ontario lakes, researchers noticed a troubling pattern of declining calcium.

Making a recovery:  When rain falls on the land or drainage basin surrounding a lake, it washes a small amount of calcium from the soil and drains it into the lake.  This natural process has occurred over thousands of years, and accounts for most of the calcium found in lakes.

Acid rain speeds up this process by washing calcium from the soil and into lakes at a much faster rate than regular rain.  Acid rain also increases the acidity of lake waters, which can negatively affect the aquatic species that rely on the lake to survive.
Acid rain peaked during the 1970s and 1980s because of increased urban and industrial development throughout eastern North America.  Since then, aggressive environmental policies have reduced the harmful emissions that cause acid rain and have succeeded in reducing its occurrence.

However, those decades of faster calcium leaching due to acid rain have depleted the natural stock of calcium found in the soil of land in lake drainage basins.  Now that we are seeing less acid rain, calcium concentrations in some lakes are declining, perhaps to levels that are lower than those before acid rain became a problem.

This means that there may not be enough calcium available for some aquatic species to survive in these lakes.   Low calcium levels may also slow the biological recovery of lakes from the higher acidity levels that were also caused by acid rain.

Getting to the core of our lakes:    To demonstrate the effects of this problem, research scientist studied Daphnia, a crustacean that lab studies have shown is strongly dependent on sufficient calcium concentrations in lakes.  Researchers conducted a paleolimnological survey, which involves using a coring device to remove a sample of the lakes’ sediment floor.  Lying within these sediments are remains of plants and animals that have been preserved over time.  Based on an analysis of lake sediment cores, scientists found that Daphnia began to decline in the 170s, showing a strong link with measured declines in lake calcium levels..

Decline in Daphnia and other calcium-rich foods have the potential to threaten many other species.  Daphnia graze on algae, which regulates their presence in a lake.  This affects other animals in the food chain such as fish and birds.

The results of this research teach an important lesson about the role that each creature plays in an ecosystem.  Small lakes and wetlands provide important habitat for many species.  The individual roles these species play in our ecosystems demonstrate the interconnectedness of all life forms and illustrate the potential for habitat pollution and other impacts to have complex consequences for ecosystems.

Points to Ponder/ Our Concerns/Tips

Acid rain, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, zebra mussels the list goes on and on. The world is fully connected now and we transport our problems and receive others. The days of drinking from the river, lake or taps are gone……