More action needed to stop run-off from polluting Lake Simcoe

runoffTo the editor:

We have a serious ongoing unresolved flow of contamination going into the Beaverton area of the lake.

Last year’s big rainfall event on June 24 saw the bay between the Beaverton pier and the mouth of the Trent Canal become a large brown plume of sediment and nutrients for approximately five weeks, making it unavailable for swimming, clogging water intakes and creating significant angst amongst some of us as we have been raising this issue since 2011.

This year the aftermath of the rainfall/runoff event that started around Family Day on Feb. 19, caused another major sediment and nutrient runoff via the tributaries and ditches draining the farm land east of both Mara Road and Shoreline Road between Concession 7 Thorah and Concession 9 Thorah. The run-off continued unabated for at least isx days until Feb. 25, when we last checked.

Remarkably, other water sources – the Trent Canal, Talbot River, White’s Creek and Beaver River – were all flowing relatively clearly, albeit with ice jams on the latter two. See the attached picture showing dirty farm run-off draining directly into the road ditch along Concession 9 and unabated into the lake.

Our observations are consistent with the message from the Environmental Commissioner Diane Saxe in a report last June 2017. She said the government needs to tackle the run-off coming from farms. She focused in on the phosphorus contamination in Lake Erie and Lake Simcoe, indicating only 12 percent of the problem is coming from “point sources” such as sewers and septic tanks, while the other 88 percent of the problem is coming from non-point sources (farms and other sources).

A look at the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan results shows the same thing. It came into effect in 2009 and was put in place to protect and restore the health of the lake. A long-term phosphorus level of 44 tons per year into the lake is a key element of the plan. This is the level that reportedly keeps weed growth and dissolved oxygen at appropriate levels and supports a healthy lake.  Despite all the work and efforts to reduce phosphorus levels, the latest three-year report ending in 2015 indicates the phosphorus levels at 86, 101, and 71 tons per year respectively and are some of the highest over the last 15 years. Despite all the effort and money being spent there is no trend getting us to 44. It is clear the plan needs adjustment.  Its time (actually way past time) to address the run-off from farms.

More people need to speak up on this issue!  Make sure you report run-off spills to the spill hotline (1-800-268-6060).  Make sure you ask your preferred candidate in the upcoming Ontario election what he or she is going to do to reduce farm run-off into Lake Simcoe so that we can all look towards enjoying a clean and healthy lake.  Make sure you take an interest in this issue – Lake Simcoe is a valuable resource we don’t want to lose.

Kevin Thompson

Read more on the issue:
PROVINCE WANTS TO WORK WITH TOWNSHIP TO REDUCE LAKE SIMCOE POLLUTION