Province wants to work with Township to reduce Lake Simcoe pollution

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) appears committed to addressing Brock Township’s concerns surrounding water quality in Lake Simcoe but has stopped short of a formal investigation.

In a letter dated Feb. 1, Minister Chris Ballard urged the municipality to work with the Province to address the issue.

“The Lake Simcoe Protection Act was enacted in December, 2008 for the purpose of protecting and restoring the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed ecosystem. Among the Act’s objectives are the protection, improvement or restoration of the elements that contribute to the ecological health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. These include water quality, hydrology, and key natural heritage and hydrological features and their functions,” the letter reads.

“I have asked ministry staff to follow up with the Township of Brock directly to further discuss this matter and to see if we can find some actions and solutions together. I assure you the Government of Ontario and its partners will continue to take action to address water quality as part of our efforts to implement the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.”

While that response falls short of the formal investigation requested by the municipality, Ballard said the government is committed to reducing pollution and its causes.

“We are actively working with our colleagues in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as a broad range of partners, including the agricultural community, to implement best management practices to reduce both non-point source and source sediment discharges in the Lake Simcoe watershed,” the response reads.

“This includes: shoreline and riparian management; the planting of native trees and shrubs; installation of cattle restriction fencing; removal of instream barriers and online ponds; and the use of bioengineering solutions as part of natural channel designs. On-farm measures to control sediment discharges may also include the installation of sediment control basins, native plant buffers, silt fences and/or berms to minimize the impacts of sediment and silt runoff during rain events. Collectively, these practices have contributed to improvements in habitat for native species, expanded riparian cover, and reduced sediment and nutrient inputs to the lake.”

Ballard continued by pointing to an upcoming review of the Permit to Take Water program, another concern of the municipality.

“To date, Ontario has taken a number of key actions to strengthen groundwater protection in the province. For example, my ministry is currently undertaking a broader review of the Permit to Take Water program over the next two years. During this period, Ontario will review groundwater science, water programs and policies as they apply to all water takers across the province, and will include considering the impacts of climate change and future demand on water sources,” the letter reads.

“All source protection plans are in effect across Ontario, including for the Lake Simcoe watershed. Source protection plans contain a series of locally-developed policies that, as they are implemented, protect existing and future sources of municipal drinking water.”

Back on Oct. 2, members of township council asked the MOECC to formally investigate reports of pollution and sediment release into Lake Simcoe.

The Township has reportedly met with affected landowners, agricultural producers and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority to discuss the issue.

“(The) Township of Brock has been advised that only the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has the formal authority in which to enforce the provisions of the Ontario Water Resources Act,” the motion read.

Councillors were quick to lend their support, noting the issue has existed far too long already.

“I think this is something that has been a long time coming for a lot of us,” said Ward 2 Councillor Cyndi Schaffer.

“There has been a noticeable change in the material at the bottom of the lake,” added Mayor John Grant.

“The matters are squarely in the MOECC’s purview…I think it’s long overdue.”

The letter from Ballard will likely be discussed at today’s (Feb. 12) meeting of the persons and protection to persons and property committee meeting.