Tag Archives: Grand River

USING PARTNERSHIPS TO TURN AN OPEN SEWER INTO AN AWARD WINNING URBAN RIVER AND TO PROTECT THE LOCAL DRINKING WATER AQUIFERS

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 Speaking at the 53rd International Making Cities Livable Conference, Rome, Italy, June 13 – 17, 2016. Below is my presentation.

 

 

 

 

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Grand River as an open sewer, 1930s

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Grand River Today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Settled by Old Order Mennonites similar to the Amish, and Scots, the Region of Waterloo and Guelph have a long tradition of using partnerships to solve problems. The people of the Grand River Watershed have a long tradition of stewardship of the land and river. Partnerships and stewardship have turned an open sewer into an award winning watershed and protected drinking water aquifers.

The Grand River Watershed is located in Southern Ontario Canada. It is about the size of the state of Delaware in the USA. The Grand River is about two-thirds of the length of the Thames in England.The population of the Grand River basin is over one million with a concentrated urban area of approximately 684,000 located in Waterloo Region and Guelph in the middle of the watershed.[1] The Region of Waterloo is best known as the home of the Blackberry smartphone and the University of Waterloo, though it has a long manufacturing tradition. 70 percent of the watershed is in agriculture.

Ten thousand years ago, as the Ice Age ended, glaciers left behind long hills of sand, gravel, boulders and dirt called moraines.

The Galt-Paris moraines run from the Guelph area southwest to Brant County. The Waterloo moraine lies under almost all of the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener. Water from the melting glaciers created spillways, carving out river valleys.

The moraines also have an important role in maintaining the health of the river system.

When snow melts or rain falls on the moraine, the water soaks into the ground and through the porous sand and gravel soil. The ground filters the water, removing some of the impurities. The water also cools off as it travels through the ground. A lot of this pure water goes into the local aquifer and becomes the source of 80% of the Region’s drinking water.

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Grand River, Waterloo Region

Eventually, some of that water comes back to the surface in the form of springs and seeps. The springs create streams. These cold water creeks are rich habitats and support a wide variety of fish, such as brook trout.

As the creeks flow downstream they join the Conestoga, Speed, Nith and other rivers, eventually emptying into the Grand. They help to raise the quality of the water in the river. That’s important to downstream communities, such as Brantford, which get their drinking water from the Grand River.[2]

250 years ago, the Grand River Watershed and the Region of Waterloo were forest and indigenous created savanna.  Neutral Indians lived in the watershed, then later the Mississaugas. Their footprints were light on the land and their impact on the natural system was minimal.

But in the late 1700s historical forces led to profound changes in the landscape of the Grand River valley. The Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) came after the American War of Independence when they were given land on 6 miles of both sides of the Grand to replace their lands lost to the Americans. In events now surrounded with controversy, most of the Six Nations land was sold through various developers to European settlers.

The European settlers cut down the forests to create farms. The settlers took a tremendous toll on the natural system.

In 1800, most of the watershed was forested or covered with wetlands and grasslands. By 1900 almost all of the trees and most of the wetlands were gone. Only 5 per cent of the land was forested.

The change on the river system was dramatic. Snow melted faster in the spring, because there was no tree cover. There were no wetlands to hold the runoff. Water rushed off the lands into the rivers. Floods became common. As more trees were felled and wetlands drained, the floods became bigger and more frequent.

Less water soaked into the ground, so springs dried up. In the summer, the rivers dried up to a trickle. Cities and towns grew up along the river. They needed a place to put their sewage, so they dumped it into the nearest river or stream. Very little of it was treated.

By the early 1900s the river system was a mess. Spring floods wiped out houses and factories. One massive flood in 1929 caused massive damage in Guelph and other cities. In the summer, the rivers dried up to a trickle of sewage.

By the year 1931, conditions had become alarming. In the early part of the 20th century, outbreaks of major bacterial diseases such as typhoid and cholera swept through many communities.

Cleaning up the Grand River Watershed.

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Logging in the 1800s

Community leaders throughout the watershed recognized that they had to do something to address the severe flooding, water supply and water quality issues that threatened the vitality of their communities and their residents.

Businessmen and municipalities partnered to create an organization called the Grand Valley Boards of Trade. They petitioned the province to look into the serious water problems of the Grand River Watershed.

The province responded with a detailed study called “The Report on Grand River Drainage”, often referred to as the “Finlayson Report” after the minister of the Department of Lands and Forests. The report discovered that inadequate storage during the spring run-off created disastrous floods. During the summer the flow was as low as 50 cu feet per second. The problem was made worse by the lack of trees and wetlands.

The solution was to build a series of storage reservoirs at strategic locations. During the spring, water running off the land would be stored in the reservoirs. During the summer and fall, the water in the reservoirs would be released gradually to supplement natural flows. There would be enough water to meet the sewage treatment and water supply needs of the cities and towns.

Reforestation was looked at but due to the fertile soil, it was suggested that only areas unsuitable for farming be planted with trees. [3]

The Grand River Conservation Commission was the first watershed management agency in Canada when it received its formal Letters Patent in August, 1934. This was the first time local municipalities had banded together to address water management issues on a watershed scale. The founding partner municipalities were Brantford, Galt, Kitchener, Fergus and Caledonia. Other municipalities soon joined the partnership.

GRCC built the Shand Dam that created Bellwood Lake. Another big flood hit in 1948 and Hurricane Hazel struck in 1954. Luther Dam and Conestogo Dam were built in the 1950s. The Commission also worked to try to restore the natural system by opening a tree nursery. They also planted more than two million trees on their land and undertook some of the province’s first large scale reforestation projects. [4]

eloraladiesIn 1941, environmentalists and conservation groups came together at the Guelph Conference to discuss environmental protection. In 1946, the province passed the Conservation Authorities Act. The power to create the authorities was placed in the hands of the municipalities and they created the Grand Valley Conservation Authority. For many years, the GRCC and the GVCA worked side by side. The GRCC managed reservoirs and restoration, the GVCA focused on restoration, protection of natural areas and recreation. The Elora Gorge Park was the first conservation area created. Some friction and confusion existed. In 1966 the two agencies merged to become the Grand River Conservation Authority. In the early years, GRCA members came from municipalities and appointments by the provincial government. Today, the GRCA board is made up of municipal politicians from throughout the watershed and municipally appointed members of the public, along with hired staff. [5]

The GRCA and its forerunners were created as partnerships. A watershed is made up of many municipalities, each of which have their own ways of treating sewage and keeping the rivers and aquifers clean, or not clean.  Rivers cross boundaries, whether counties, states and provinces, or countries. When an organization brings together all of the parties in partnerships, improvements come about. In the case of Canada and the United States, the International Joint Commission helps Canada and the United States prevent disputes over transboundary waters. The IJC works on the water quality and levels of the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is the end point of the Grand River, so GRCA staff attend those meetings. As we say, everyone lives downstream. If each jurisdiction is a fiefdom, not working with other municipalities or organizations, nothing will get cleaned up.[6]

The river needed to be controlled to dilute the wastewater entering the river and improve the quality of drinking water. The Finlayson Report noted that the summer stream flow was essential to dilute effluents from sewage disposal plants so the water could be used in towns such as Brantford that still gets all of its water from the river. It was known at that time that well water from the aquifers could be infiltrated by the river.

In the late 1800s, cholera, diphtheria and typhoid fever were common because sewers dumped waste directly into rivers and outhouses were located close to bodies of water. Untreated waste washed up on shores and beaches.  Sometimes the sewer was close to the intake pipe for drinking water. Gradually, provincial public health laws were amended to cover the pollution of bodies of water. With the introduction of chlorine treatment, drinking water began to be purified.[7] The first sewage treatment plants and water treatment plants were built in the early 1900s in the Region of Waterloo and Guelph. The first wastewater plants contained sediment tanks and gravel filter beds.[8] The treatment of sewage and purification of water is considered one of the top public health achievements.

Over 90 Canadian cities still discharge raw untreated sewage including the cities of Victoria B.C. and Halifax N.S.

There are 30 wastewater treatment plants operated by 11 municipalities and two First Nations in the Grand River Watershed.

The plants handle the waste from about two-thirds of the population. Most of the rest rely on private systems, such as septic tanks.

The volume of pollutants remaining in treated effluent from one plant is small. The combination of the effluent from 30 plants adds up. This has an impact on the downstream river and Lake Erie, the smallest of the great lakes. The upgrade of the Kitchener Wastewater treatment plant will prevent a current dead zone where oxygen can drop to zero in the river.[9]

Nitrates from agriculture can run off into the rivers and streams. They can also persist in the soil for decades and cause problems in drinking water, leading to such health hazards as blue-baby syndrome.[10]

Unfortunately, upgrading treatment plants is very expensive. The current upgrades to the Region of Waterloo wastewater treatment plant in the city of Kitchener alone cost 320 million dollars.  The GRCA, the municipalities and the provincial government have partnered on ways to improve the plants with existing equipment, called plant optimization. In several cases, millions of dollars have been saved instead of spent. Managers of water and wastewater plants have worked together to create best practices for avoiding sewage bypasses and spills.

One important partnership in the Grand River Watershed is with farmers through the Rural Water Quality Program.

The program offers grants ranging from 30 per cent to 100 per cent of the cost of selected best management practices to increase water quality. Money is available for projects that include stream fencing to keep cows out of the water, tree planting, manure storage, well decommissioning and more.

In some cases, grants may be combined with funding from other sources for a combined grant of 80 to 100 per cent of the project costs.

Farmers helped create and continue to oversee the program. Local committees, with

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Manure storage with Rural Water Quality Program

representation from agricultural organizations, prioritize best management practices applications and decide appropriate funding levels to direct the available funding.

The GRCA administers the program. Most of the funds come from municipal governments. The Rural Water Quality Program is voluntary. [11]

Protecting Water with Source Water Protection

Although much has been done to clean up the Grand River Watershed and to make sure the residents have clean, safe drinking water, not all goes well. 80 percent of the drinking water in Waterloo Region and Guelph, the main urban areas of the Watershed, comes from aquifers. Many a person drinking bottled spring water in our Region does not know that this commercial product comes from the same system of aquifers as their tap water.   This pure source is not always pure.

Aquifers can be contaminated by seepage from the river and by farm practices. In May of

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Infamous well #5

2000, many people of Walkerton, a town to the north west of the Grand River Watershed, experienced bloody diarrhea, gastrointestinal infections and other symptoms of E. coli. For days the Walkerton Public Utilities Commission insisted the water supply was “OK” despite being in possession of laboratory tests that had found evidence of contamination.

Five people died from drinking the contaminated water and about 2,500 became ill.

The Walkerton Commission wrote a two-part report on the incident. Lack of training of the water manager and foreman, false entries, not using chlorine properly, and lack of regulations and provincial oversight were some of the problems.  The well in question was contaminated by agricultural runoff. A key recommendation was to implement source water protection. [12]

The Lake Erie Drinking Water Source Protection website defines the Ontario Government program as follows:

“The Clean Water Act ensures communities protect their drinking water supplies through prevention – by developing collaborative, watershed-based source protection plans that are locally driven and based on science.

The Act establishes source protection areas and source protection regions.”

It also created a local multi-stakeholder source protection committee for each area. These committees identify significant existing and future risks to their municipal drinking water sources and develop plans to address these risks.

The Ontario government paid the entire cost of developing source protection plans.

The Lake Erie Region Source Protection Committee is composed of the following partners:  Seven representing municipalities, seven representing economic sectors including three from agriculture, three from business and industry and one from the aggregate industry, seven representing the public interest, and three representing First Nations.

Three non-voting, advisory members also participate in committee meetings: a provincial liaison member named by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, a representative of the health units in the Lake Erie Region, and a representative of the four conservation authorities in the Lake Erie Region (Usually the Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority)[13]

The other Source Protection Committees in the province took the lead in developing their Source Protection Plans. The Lake Erie Region initiated a collaborative approach to develop our plan with municipal leads (not all municipalities opted for this though) on the one hand and Source Protection Committee oversight on the other.

Martin Keller, the Program Manager describes the reasoning this way, “Conceptually the reason is that Lake Erie Region strongly believes that municipalities who have the majority of implementation responsibility need to be at the table and part of developing the solutions i. e. developing policies for addressing significant drinking water threats.”

It is also important to have representatives from industry, First Nations, and the public, as well as many public meetings to address those effected by the plan.  People will follow a plan they have had a hand in making.

The plan circled areas around wells and marked where there would be a potential threat to the ground water and the well, if any. The municipalities look after zoning bylaws and official plans and risk management plans. A municipal Risk Management Official can negotiate a plan with a landowner or tenant that spells out the action necessary to reduce the risk posed by a significant threat. For example, the owner of a business or farm that stores chemicals could develop a spill response plan that would be part of a risk management plan. Municipalities also look after outreach and education programs and incentive programs.

The provincial government looks after permits under the Pesticides Act, licenses under the Aggregate Act, and Nutrient Management Plans under the Nutrient Management Act.

Each type of possible source water problem has been paired with a solution. These include voluntary stewardship with grants, permits, nutrient management plans, laws and regulations.

Elmira, Uniroyal and the Contaminated Aquifer: When partnerships are difficult.

Partnerships sometimes take a long time to come about and then do not always work well together.  The town of Elmira in Waterloo Region is a bucolic place best known for horse and buggy Mennonites and the world’s largest Maple Syrup Festival. It is also known for the Elmira Water Crisis. In the fall of 1989, the provincial Ministry of the Environment found high levels of NDMA in the town’s municipal wells. N-Nitrosodimethylamine, or NDMA, can occur in drinking-water through the degradation of dimethylhydrazine (a component of rocket fuel) as well as from several other industrial processes. It is also a contaminant of certain pesticides[14] The levels were 40 ppb and the guidelines are .009 ppb. Residents were advised not to drink the water. NDMA got into the Grand River and outlets were closed downstream. A pipeline was built from the nearby city of Waterloo and it supplies Elmira to the present.

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Sludge pond

The Ministry of the Environment issued an order for Uniroyal to stop discharging wastewater into the Elmira sewage treatment plant. Instead of a partnership developing, Uniroyal appealed, creating the longest hearing ever before the Environmental Appeal Board. The citizens’ group, APT participated in the appeal, bringing an NDMA expert.  The MOE had not tested for pollution at that time. The Region of Waterloo ended up leading with consultants and project teams.  A second MOE order told Uniroyal to clean up the aquifer in 30 years and contain the groundwater on the Uniroyal property. Over 200 toxic chemicals were found in the Elmira aquifers and 14 buried waste pits. Sludge was in settling ponds with no clay bottoms.

The whole incident was controversial because a lot of people living in Elmira worked at Uniroyal. It was a major industry. It should also be noted that before the 1980s, no one in the Waterloo Region thought much about the by-products of local industries, whether meat packing, automotive, or chemical. The Region and the province presently have brownfield remediation grants for developers who want to clean up old factories, such as the Kaufman shoe and rubber factory in downtown Kitchener which is now condos. The loss of heavy industry is lamented but it did lead to environmental degradation.

After more adversarial appeals, Uniroyal installed pump and treat wells in the municipal aquifer. The company and the provincial government paid for the remediation. Two buried pits were excavated and stored in a “Toxidome” in the town until residents agitated to have it removed and it was taken to the city of Sarnia. The Canagagigue Creek showed high levels of DDT and Dioxins in the sediment and floodplain soils on the Uniroyal site and downstream. No action was taken as sometimes it is better to just leave the contaminants alone and monitor. Pump and treat wells were installed along the creek. APT lost a battle to have full containment of the shallow aquifer and better creek clean-up.

In 1992, the Ministry of the Environment, Uniroyal, Elmira politicians and staff, and citizens formed UPAC/ CPAC to work in partnership to clean up the mess.  The committee continues to this day. The Uniroyal plant was taken over by Chemtura in 2006.

The Uniroyal Public Advisory Committee/Chemtura Public Advisory Committee has had a long and difficult history. In 1990, Uniroyal withdrew from UPAC in anger when the MOE laid charges for air emissions. A year later Uniroyal came back to the committee. A class action suit from Duke St residents was settled out of court and the smells stopped. The company issued two major reports accessing risks but little action was taken. APT worked quietly with the GRCA and the Region to reduce farm exposure to the dioxins downstream from 2004 to 2010.[15]

Partnerships can also run into the same problems that plague any team or group. In CPAC’s case, not only was the company difficult to work with, but so were some of the citizen members of the committee. Looking at the various problems the residents of Elmira had with Uniroyal/Chemtura, from an explosion and fire, to reluctant clean ups and a toxic dust that coated cars and properties, it is no wonder some of them refused to believe the company or work with the MOE. When those people are part of a partnership trying to solve the problems, however, things quickly come to an impasse.

In 2014, a 5-year review of the off-site clean up showed that the 2028 deadline would not be reached. The CPAC committee fell apart with Chemtura and the MOE refusing to attend meetings where they felt they were constantly browbeaten. The committee was reconstituted in 2015 by the new Mayor of Woolwich as two committees, the technical advisory group and the remediation advisory committee. Some members of the public were not reappointed. The company and the province came back to the table.[16]

Although shallow wells along Canagagigue have improved the creek by removing chlorfenyals and there are no smells and fish have returned, the amount of dioxin levels have not gone down since the 1990s. According environmental activist, Susan Bryant, the MOE is delaying. The Township of Woolwich is going to put up signs warning people not to fish in the creek hot spots.

Prevention is the Only Way.

Susan Bryant, an original member of the APT citizen group and an inductee in the Region of Waterloo Hall of Fame for her work, states, “Prevention is the only way” when it comes to combating pollution.

Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes

In 2007, the Region of Waterloo created a ground-breaking policy and planning framework

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The Wilmot Line, an ESL

to protect more than 15,000 hectares of environmentally sensitive lands. The Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes (ESL) framework is the first of its kind in Ontario and one of the first in Canada. It protects significant ecological systems – not just individual environmental features.

ESLs are areas in Waterloo Region that have significant environmental features, such as wetlands, rivers and creeks, groundwater recharge areas (aquifers) and the habitat of endangered and threatened species. They also include farms, villages, small towns and outdoor recreation areas.

An implementation plan was developed for each ESL with help from the community. The Laurel Creek Headwaters ESL Public Liaison Committee has been set up with members who are private property owners in ESLs, as well as other people with interest and expertise in land stewardship. This committee serves as a model by: Developing tools to enhance natural features and connections, promoting responsible land stewardship, assessing possible impacts of activities such as recreational use and water extraction proposals, exploring options to acquire conservation lands, addressing relevant concerns of residents and property owners within the ESL, and investigating opportunities to provide incentives and recognition for good land stewardship.[17]

Regional Official Plan

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Waterloo Region Countryside Line

The Regional Official Plan (ROP) contains the planning policies needed to direct growth and change in Waterloo Region over the next 20 years. Through the ROP, the Region will continue its tradition of innovative planning and growth management. One of the key elements of the plan is Protecting our drinking water and significant environmental areas. The plan includes a fixed border between rural and urban areas and directing growth to built up areas.[18]

Grand River Watershed Water Management Plan

Building on the success of the Finlayson Report and many other plans over the years, the Grand River Conservation Authority once again brought together partners to create an integrated water management plan for the Grand River Watershed. The goals are:  Ensure sustainable water supplies for communities, economies and ecosystems, improve water quality to improve river health and reduce the river’s impact on Lake Erie, reduce flood damage potential, and increase resiliency to deal with climate change.

Many groups and organizations provided input, including members of municipal councils,

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Elora Gorge

the agricultural community, aggregate producers, urban development organizations, environmental non-government organizations and the interested public. The following agencies took part in the plan development and had members on the Project Team and/or Steering Committee. Local municipalities and counties, Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, Environment Canada and the Grand River Conservation Authority. Meetings with the public were also held for input.

The plan was completed in 2012 with an update in 2014. The plan is a voluntary, collaborative process that brings various agencies together as partners. The plan promotes the adoption of best practices and the implementation of projects and programs that provide the greatest benefits relative to the investment. The partner agencies have set out a strategy, based on agreed-upon local objectives and targets, to meet the needs of the ecosystem and watershed communities. The strategy will assist each partner to fulfill its role and support each other. (GRCA website)[19]

Partnerships are the Key to Improving Urban Rivers and Aquifers.

The Grand River Watershed has won two major designations.

The Grand River and its major tributaries – the Conestogo, Eramosa, Nith and Speed rivers – were declared Canadian Heritage Rivers in 1994.

The designation recognizes the outstanding human heritage features and the excellence of recreational opportunities along the rivers. Fly fishing is internationally recognized.

The GRCA won the Thiess International Riverprize 2000 for its long-term successful restoration work on the Grand River. The GRCA, its partners and local communities undertook a collaborative combination of programs that lead to the Grand River recovering after years of degradation and industrialization.

This included replanting, controlling erosion, regulating development in floodplains and wetlands, creating outreach programs to landholders, and developing outdoor recreation areas.
Solid guidelines are now in place to manage fisheries, prevent pollution and improve river bald eaglewater quality.[20] The fish have returned and recreational use of the river increased significantly.  Birds such as the bald eagle, once almost extinct due to DDT, now nest along the Grand. Otters and rare fauna have returned. It also led to reduced flood damage by 80% through reservoirs.

Partnerships have led to the development of the Source Water Protection Plan to protect wells and drinking water sources.  In Elmira, a rocky partnership has nevertheless led to the cleaning of industrial land and a creek by the company responsible.

Ken Seiling, Chair of the Region of Waterloo and long time resident of Elmira, notes that it is better to try to work together to find solutions than to have constant fights between lawyers and numerous orders and appeals. Only working together can the environment be cleaned up.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Adams, Frank P. Engineering and Contract Record. Water Supply and Sewage Disposal to be Aided by Flood Control Measures on the Grand River. January 13, 1937, vol. 50, no. 55, p 19-22

Agcanada.com Nitrates to linger for decades in N-heavy waterways, study finds http://www.agcanada.com/daily/nitrates-to-linger-for-decades-in-n-heavy-waterways-study-finds 3/28/2016

Baine, Janet. The Grand, Spring 2009, http://www.grandriver.ca/publication/ 2009_spring_grand_web.pdf

Bryant, Susan. Timeline: Elmira Water Crisis and the Aftermath. Jane’s Walk. http://www.woolwich.ca/en/townshipServices/resources/Recreation/Timeline-Janes_Walk__2_.pdf . 3/29/2016

Canadian Public Health Association. Sewage and Sanitary Reformers versus Night Filth and Disease. CPHA Website. http://www.cpha.ca/en/programs/history/achievements/05-he/sewage.aspx. 3/28/2016

DenHoed, John, Robertson, Tim. City of Guelph Wastewater Treatment: The Historical Perspective. http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/WastewaterHistory.pdf 3/28/2016

Grand River Conservation Authority. Grand River Watershed. Water Management Plan. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/resources/Documents/WMP/Water_WMP_Plan_ExecutiveSummary.pdf Sept. 2014

GRCA. http://www.grandriver.ca. 3/29/2016

GRCA. Rural Water Quality Program. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/Rural-Water-Quality-Program.aspx 3/28/2016

GRCA. Water Management Plan. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/Water-management-plan.aspx 3/29/2016

International Joint Commission.  http://www.ijc.org/en_/ 3/28/2016

Kannon, Steve. As CPAC Winds Down, Long Standing Concerns Remain. Woolwich Observer. http://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-woolwich-observer/20150829/281509339941119/TextView 29 August, 2015.

Lake Erie Source Protection Region. https://www.sourcewater.ca/en/index.aspx . 3/28/2016

Ministry of the Attorney General. Walkerton Commission of Inquiry Reports. https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/walkerton/ 3/28/2016

Region of Waterloo. Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes (ESLs) http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/abouttheenvironment/environmentallysensitivelandscapesesls.asp 3/29/2016

Region of Waterloo. Populationhttp://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/doingbusiness/population.asp 3/28/2016

Region of Waterloo. Regional Official Plan http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalgovernment/regionalofficialplan.asp 3/29/2016

Special Collections and Archives. University of Waterloo. Grand River Conservation Commission Fonds. https://uwaterloo.ca/library/special-collections-archives/collections/grand-river-conservation-commission-fonds 3/24/2016

Schultz, Dave, Jane Mitchell, et al. Grand River Conservation Authority. It’s a Grand River, PowerPoint presentation 2013

Statistics Canada. Focus on Geography Series, 2011 Census: Census metropolitan area of Guelph, Ontario https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-cma-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CMA&GC=550 3/28/2016

World Health Organization, 2008 Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality, http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/fulltext.pdf . 3rd edition

 

[1]Region of Waterloo. Population.  http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/doingbusiness/population.asp 3/28/2016

Statistics Canada. Focus on Geography Series, 2011 Census: Census metropolitan area of Guelph, Ontario https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/as-sa/fogs-spg/Facts-cma-eng.cfm?LANG=Eng&GK=CMA&GC=550 3/28/2016

[2] Dave, Schultz, Jane Mitchell, et al. Grand River Conservation Authority. It’s a Grand River, Powerpoint presentation. 2013.

 

[3]  Frank P. Adams. Engineering and Contract Record. Water Supply and Sewage Disposal to be Aided by Flood Control Measures on the Grand River. January 13, 1937, vol. 50, no. 55, p 19-22

 

[4]  Special Collections and Archives. University of Waterloo. Grand River Conservation Commission Fonds. https://uwaterloo.ca/library/special-collections-archives/collections/grand-river-conservation-commission-fonds 3/24/2016

[5] Janet Baine, The Grand, Spring 2009, http://www.grandriver.ca/publication/ 2009_spring_grand_web.pdf

[6]International Joint Commission.  http://www.ijc.org/en_/ 3/28/2016

[7]Canadian Public Health Association. Sewage and Sanitary Reformers versus Night Filth and Disease. CPHA Website. 3/28/2016

[8] Ministry of the Attorney General. Walkerton Commission of Inquiry Reports. https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/walkerton/ 3/28/2016

John DenHoed, Tim Robertson. City of Guelph Wastewater Treatment: The Historical Perspective. http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/WastewaterHistory.pdf 3/28/2016

[9] Grand River Conservation Authority. Grand River Watershed. Water Management Plan. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/resources/Documents/WMP/Water_WMP_Plan_ExecutiveSummary.pdf Sept. 2014

[10] Agcanada.com Nitrates to linger for decades in N-heavy waterways, study finds http://www.agcanada.com/daily/nitrates-to-linger-for-decades-in-n-heavy-waterways-study-finds 3/28/2016

 

 

[11] GRCA. Rural Water Quality Program. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/Rural-Water-Quality-Program.aspx 3/28/2016

[12] Walkerton Report. Ibid.

[13] Lake Erie Source Protection Region. https://www.sourcewater.ca/en/index.aspx . 3/28/2016

[14] World Health Organization, 2008 Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality, http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/fulltext.pdf . 3rd edition

[15] Susan Bryant. Timeline: Elmira Water Crisis and the Aftermath. Jane’s Walk. http://www.woolwich.ca/en/townshipServices/resources/Recreation/Timeline-Janes_Walk__2_.pdf . 3/29/2016

[16] Steve Kannon. As CPAC Winds Down, Long Standing Concerns Remain. Woolwich Observer. http://www.pressreader.com/canada/the-woolwich-observer/20150829/281509339941119/TextView 29 August, 2015.

[17] Region of Waterloo. Environmentally Sensitive Landscapes (ESLs) http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/abouttheenvironment/environmentallysensitivelandscapesesls.asp 3/29/2016

[18] Region of Waterloo. Regional Official Plan http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalgovernment/regionalofficialplan.asp 3/29/2016

[19] GRCA. Water Management Plan. https://www.grandriver.ca/en/our-watershed/Water-management-plan.aspx 3/29/2016

[20] GRCA. http://www.grandriver.ca. 3/29/2016

Dams and Dykes More Important with Climate Change

Sometimes it seems like those of us who deal with climate change are shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling. We must run and tell the King!”

The reality is, the sky is falling. In the form of increased, localized rain storms. We had one just this past week. These storms are becoming more frequent as the ice caps melt and the planet warms. The water must go somewhere and part of somewhere is the atmosphere. Climate change is complicated. It can lead to more rain and more drought. We need to look beyond one cold winter and spring to the trends going back one hundred years.

In the 1900s, Niagara Falls froze and people would go out onto an ice hill below the falls. The falls froze partially this past winter for the first time in many years but that doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening. Our memories of the weather in past years are very fallible and it is fortunate that the staff at the GRCA keep accurate statistics on the river.

This spring, the Grand River dodged a bullet. The cold winter meant a snow pack two to three times higher than usual. Combined with a lot of rain and ice jams, the spring melt would have meant flooding much worse than the 1974 flood in Cambridge. Fortunately a slow melt of warm days and cool nights and warmish weather and cold spells (perfect maple syrup weather), meant everything went well. The reservoirs were full at one point but the experts at the GRCA made sure it was properly released.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the great flood of May 1974. Since that time, as outlined in the May 17th, Waterloo Region Record article, stopping flooding is a full time job at the GRCA. It should be pointed out that the Galt flood happened after the spring melt and was caused by a half month’s worth of rain falling on already sodden ground. Sounds a lot like this May. We can only hope to dodge another bullet.

Since that time, dykes and the river wall by the School of Architecture plus vigilant work at the Grand River dams, have prevented severe flooding in Waterloo Region. On December 28, 2008, it is estimated that without the reservoirs, the flow of the Grand River in Cambridge (Galt) would have reached the flow  at Galt during the 1974 flood.

This leads me to point out that, other than transit, the three main parties in this election are silent on Climate Change.

The GRCA recently got grants from the province to pay for half the cost of fixing the dykes in Cambridge. However, the program the money came from, the Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure Program, was recently cut back, though the province has said they will return the funds next year.

Conservation Ontario’s flood business case highlights needed investments in aging infrastructure, Conservation Authority flood operations, floodplain mapping and asset management strategies.

Conservation Ontario and the GRCA have been lobbying the opposition parties and the present government about the importance of conservation authorities for a number of years. Hopefully all parties will understand the importance of preserving dykes and dams in a time of climate change.

Useful Links

 GRCA website

Forecasting

May 1974 Flood

The Record article,

Youtube part one

Youtube part 2

One Day in May

Climate Change

Arctic ice is shrinking

new report shows that the Antarctic glaciers are calving.

into the atmosphere. As the temperature increases, more moisture is absorbed.

Climate change denied

Niagara Falls 2014

Niagara Falls 1900

Keep our Ground Water and Rivers Free of Salt

The other week I had an argument with my husband. He wanted to buy salt for our driveway and sidewalk. He also occasionally “salts” the walk-through near us (Want to promote walking, City of Waterloo? Keep the walk-throughs clear!) Even thugh it is cheap, I insisted that we get the non-salt variety. I have to walk the talk! So here is some info from the Region of Waterloo on how to be safe with salt in the winter.

Take the low-salt challenge

Winter has finally arrived. Staying safe during your winter travels is important but using large amounts of salt isn’t the answer. Help to reduce our reliance on salt. Wear proper outdoor footwear and drive for the conditions.  When clearing your driveway and sidewalks remember to shovel first and only use small amounts of salt at the proper temperature.

Organizations can help by becoming Smart About Salt™ certified.  The Smart About Salt program promotes best management practices on salt use while maintaining public safety through training and certification.

Salt damages our clothes, cars and the environment. When snow melts, excessive salt can be absorbed in to the ground – and into our drinking water.

Be smart about salt™!

  • Wear proper outdoor footwear and make use of snow tires (Yak Traks for the bottom of your boots are fantastic. You can get them at the St. Jacob’s Outlet Mall — Jane)
  • Shovel snow as soon as possible after a snowfall
  • Use salt sparingly and only at the proper temperature
  • Redirect downspouts away from walkways and driveways
  • Use a certified Smart about Salt Contractor

To learn more visit www.smartaboutsalt.com.

Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/smartaboutsalt

Watch Out for that Flood!

One of the main jobs of the Grand River Conservation Authority is flood control. Two major events helped create the GRCA we know today, Hurricane Hazel and the Cambridge flood of 1974. Here’s some great footage from Youtube of the 1974 flood.

Since that time, dikes and dams have been built to stop the flooding. Here’s a picture of the river in Galt in 2008.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/body_soul_spirit/3149659138/

 The GRCA also stopped people from building on the flood plain and requires permits for anything built in an area that might be flooded in a 100 year flood.  There is also a flood warning and forecasting system.

Today I attended the flood coordinator’s meeting of the people including police, fire, GRCA, and municipal who receive the fan out of a flood warning for areas like New Hamburg, Ayr, and Dunnville. Dunnville ended up with a flood in 2009 due to an ice jam that ran right up the river, for kilometers. the ice breaker Griffin was able to dislodge some of the ice and help reduce the flooding

It was timely to hear how flood warnings go out, as we are now in the middle of a thaw of the large amount of snow accumulated over the last few weeks combined with rain. The icebreaker, Griffin, is heading to the mouth of Lake Erie to break up an ice jam again. With climate change, we must be ready for 100 year floods that now come every few years.

Here is a video shown at the coordinator’s meeting from the floods in Australia. It was pointed out that we have had sudden large amounts of rain in the watershed and this could happen here.

After the meeting, one of the staff commented to me, “This is why we need permits, even for parking lots.”

I’m Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority!

Just elected Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority. But what is the GRCA, you ask and what does it do?

Here is the answer right from the website: “The Grand River flows 300 kilometres through southwestern Ontario from the highlands of Dufferin County to Port Maitland on Lake Erie.

The Grand River Conservation Authority manages water and other natural resources on behalf of 38 municipalities and close to one million residents.”

If you live in Southern Ontario you may know the GRCA best through it’s many parks such as Elora, Pinehurst, Rockwood and Byng Island. World wide you may know of it through its world class fly fishing.

http://www.grandriver.ca  A great website that includes realtime water flows.

Here are some of the issues facing the GRCA, that I raised during my acceptance speech.

The GRCA is a Canadian Heritage River and won the Theiss Riverprize as one of the best managed watersheds in the world. We have excellent staff who work hard with limited resources to keep our river system sound.

The health of our river system both in water quantity and quality is a pressing issue as we prepare for the effects of climate change and population growth.

Staff and stakeholders are presently working on the Grand River Watershed Management Plan and  Source Water Protection is moving ahead. We must remain vigilant that it includes a strong mandate to improve the health and safety of our river system. 

Climate change, as we can see from other places in the world, should concern us all. We need to make sure our governments understand the dangers of ignoring our infrastructure of  dams and flood controls. Population growth means more sewage with its problems. 

The next four years will bring continuing concerns about our budget .  We need more money from other levels of government as well as a hard look at our own budget.  We cannot protect the watershed without a viable budget.

The GRCA is now on Twitter and Facebook and we have many publications and contacts with the media. But more needs to be done to raise our profile and get our residents to understand the importance of the river  and our environment and the importance of our expensive water and wastewater systems. I have attended meetings on water with my constituents and have had to remind them that the Grand River is not the polluted river of the past.  One of the ways we can do this is by involving the public in our Strategic Planning Process.

Our Strategic planning process is key for the next four years. To simply lower or raise our budget is not enough. We need to have defined goals and objectives for the watershed, then a plan to fund it.  Not only do we need to hear from staff, board members, the public and stakeholders but we also must have ways of reporting back and measuring our success in meeting our outcomes. I have several ideas on how this may be done, as I know many of you do also.

Together we can keep the GRCA one of the best managed watersheds in the world.

Why Big Oil Doesn’t Like Local Food (It’s Not what You Think)

When I was a girl, my mother used to buy New Dundee butter from Zehrs. In the winter the butter was a pale yellow. In the summer it was a yellowy creamy colour. The taste was different too. I preferred the summer butter.  The butter looked and tasted different because in the summer, the local dairy cows ate grass instead of the feed of the winter. New Dundee Dairy with its beautiful tasting butter is long gone. All butter now tastes like winter butter as dairy cows live inside.

The Grand River  has a few dead spots where algae use up all the oxygen needed by plants and fish and there is a plume of algae coming out of the mouth of the river as it enters Lake Erie.

How do these two things even relate and what does it have to do with Big Oil? Glad you asked.

I am reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, that my daughter gave me for my birthday.

Pollan follows American food from corn in Iowa to a MacDonald’s eaten in a car driving in California.

The hybrid corn creates huge yields (Yet strangely, farmers are losing money, see the book). Part of that yield is caused by artificial fertilizers.  Nitrogen helps plants grow but until humans learned how to fix the nitrogen in the atmosphere to create artificial fertilizer, nitrogen was pretty much a closed system with some made by the bacteria growing with soybeans or already in the soil or manure or plants. All energy came originally from the sun through plants. Now that energy comes from oil (yes I know oil is from million year old plants but it can run out vs. the sun has a few billion years left)

Like the poem, “The House that Jack Built” (this is the cat that ate the mouse that ate the grain that lived in the house that Jack built), oil is at the beginning of a long food chain. Oil is used to make the nitrogen fertilizer that feeds the hybrid corn that feeds the cows (pigs and chickens) now in huge feedlots or factory farms (versus our local Waterloo county mixed farms with different crops and animals or smaller operations) that go to the slaughterhouses that make the hamburger from cows all over American that make the boxed patties and BBQ chickens that are eaten by us. This chain is heavily subsidized by the American Government but not in a good way.

In Canada, we still have egg and milk marketing boards and the wheat marketing board that protect the farmers from the ups and down of weather. Not so for beef and hogs as shown with the problems caused by the mad cow scares that crippled our beef industry. (Canadian steers end up in American feedlots)

Including cost of creating pesticides, driving tractors, cost of driving corn to terminals and feedlots, it costs more than a calorie of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of food. Before chemical fertilizer, one calorie of energy created two calories of food.

This food chain uses a tremendous amount of cheap oil to transport it all over North America and the world.

The artificial fertilizers are so good that the excess that runs into the Grand River feeds algae that create the dead zones. Nitrates from fertilizers are the biggest problem in the Grand, not sewage.

http://www.grandriver.ca/WatershedReportCard/2004_Fall_Grand_Pg4.pdf

The sad Gulf of Mexico that is now being destroyed by the BP oil spill already had a large dead zone caused indirectly by oil. The excess artificial fertilizer from the corn farms in the US mid-west travels down the Mississippi and the nitrates and nitrites create a large dead zone in the gulf.

So eating local food is more than how far it travels from the slaughterhouse or fields of Mexico or Peru or the US. It is also about using our local smaller mixed farms and finding organic farms that don’t use artificial fertilizers to grow monoculture corn fields. This is a huge topic, for example,did you know that most of the small abattoirs  (slaughterhouses )in Ontario are gone. It’s not just the disappearance of local creameries.

And despite what the supporters of business as usual will tell you, local and organic food isn’t about any difference in taste or driving to the farmers’ market or whether there are spoiled peaches in the basket (The lady at the Martin’s stall was so offended by that. Mmm. Martin apples),it’s about whether we want to be dependent on oil that destroys the ocean or a monoculture agriculture based on cheap GMO or hybrid corn that creates an unhealthy diet and climate change. Organic isn’t about taste it’s about eliminating pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Yes the yield is reduced but the environment improves.

The good news? A visit to St. Jacobs market, internet search and a glance at www.foodlink.ca shows that local producers are popping up all over Waterloo Region and Perth County with organic or local veggies, fruit, meat, cheese and butter.  Go local.

Why Big Oil Doesn't Like Local Food (It's Not what You Think)

When I was a girl, my mother used to buy New Dundee butter from Zehrs. In the winter the butter was a pale yellow. In the summer it was a yellowy creamy colour. The taste was different too. I preferred the summer butter.  The butter looked and tasted different because in the summer, the local dairy cows ate grass instead of the feed of the winter. New Dundee Dairy with its beautiful tasting butter is long gone. All butter now tastes like winter butter as dairy cows live inside.

The Grand River  has a few dead spots where algae use up all the oxygen needed by plants and fish and there is a plume of algae coming out of the mouth of the river as it enters Lake Erie.

How do these two things even relate and what does it have to do with Big Oil? Glad you asked.

I am reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, that my daughter gave me for my birthday.

Pollan follows American food from corn in Iowa to a MacDonald’s eaten in a car driving in California.

The hybrid corn creates huge yields (Yet strangely, farmers are losing money, see the book). Part of that yield is caused by artificial fertilizers.  Nitrogen helps plants grow but until humans learned how to fix the nitrogen in the atmosphere to create artificial fertilizer, nitrogen was pretty much a closed system with some made by the bacteria growing with soybeans or already in the soil or manure or plants. All energy came originally from the sun through plants. Now that energy comes from oil (yes I know oil is from million year old plants but it can run out vs. the sun has a few billion years left)

Like the poem, “The House that Jack Built” (this is the cat that ate the mouse that ate the grain that lived in the house that Jack built), oil is at the beginning of a long food chain. Oil is used to make the nitrogen fertilizer that feeds the hybrid corn that feeds the cows (pigs and chickens) now in huge feedlots or factory farms (versus our local Waterloo county mixed farms with different crops and animals or smaller operations) that go to the slaughterhouses that make the hamburger from cows all over American that make the boxed patties and BBQ chickens that are eaten by us. This chain is heavily subsidized by the American Government but not in a good way.

In Canada, we still have egg and milk marketing boards and the wheat marketing board that protect the farmers from the ups and down of weather. Not so for beef and hogs as shown with the problems caused by the mad cow scares that crippled our beef industry. (Canadian steers end up in American feedlots)

Including cost of creating pesticides, driving tractors, cost of driving corn to terminals and feedlots, it costs more than a calorie of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of food. Before chemical fertilizer, one calorie of energy created two calories of food.

This food chain uses a tremendous amount of cheap oil to transport it all over North America and the world.

The artificial fertilizers are so good that the excess that runs into the Grand River feeds algae that create the dead zones. Nitrates from fertilizers are the biggest problem in the Grand, not sewage.

http://www.grandriver.ca/WatershedReportCard/2004_Fall_Grand_Pg4.pdf

The sad Gulf of Mexico that is now being destroyed by the BP oil spill already had a large dead zone caused indirectly by oil. The excess artificial fertilizer from the corn farms in the US mid-west travels down the Mississippi and the nitrates and nitrites create a large dead zone in the gulf.

So eating local food is more than how far it travels from the slaughterhouse or fields of Mexico or Peru or the US. It is also about using our local smaller mixed farms and finding organic farms that don’t use artificial fertilizers to grow monoculture corn fields. This is a huge topic, for example,did you know that most of the small abattoirs  (slaughterhouses )in Ontario are gone. It’s not just the disappearance of local creameries.

And despite what the supporters of business as usual will tell you, local and organic food isn’t about any difference in taste or driving to the farmers’ market or whether there are spoiled peaches in the basket (The lady at the Martin’s stall was so offended by that. Mmm. Martin apples),it’s about whether we want to be dependent on oil that destroys the ocean or a monoculture agriculture based on cheap GMO or hybrid corn that creates an unhealthy diet and climate change. Organic isn’t about taste it’s about eliminating pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Yes the yield is reduced but the environment improves.

The good news? A visit to St. Jacobs market, internet search and a glance at www.foodlink.ca shows that local producers are popping up all over Waterloo Region and Perth County with organic or local veggies, fruit, meat, cheese and butter.  Go local.