News Releases

Source Protection Plan Approval Questions and Answers

Tuesday, Apr. 21, 2015

Essex Region Source Protection Area ?

Source Protection Plan Approval

Questions and Answers

Local announcement: April 22, 2015

KEY MESSAGES

The Essex Region source protection plan is a culmination of many years of work and public consultation. The Essex Region source protection committee has developed a sound plan that protects their municipal drinking water systemsThe Essex Region source protection plan is a culmination of many years of work and public consultation. The Essex Region source protection committee has developed a sound plan that protects their municipal drinking water systems.

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.

Local leadership continues to play a key role in protecting our drinking water sources now and in the future.

Protecting our local drinking water sources is part of Ontario's drinking water safety net. Thanks to our strong framework with safeguards at every step of the process, Ontarians can be confident in the quality and quantity of their drinking water.

Q1. Where is the Essex Region source protection area?

The Essex Region source protection area is situated in southern Ontario. The source protection area borders Lake St. Clair to the north, Lake Erie to the south, and the Detroit River to the west.

The area measures approximately 1680-square kilometres, and is home to approximately 394,000 people. The majority of residents live in the City of Windsor, Town of Lakeshore, and Municipality of Leamington.

The area has seven municipal residential drinking water systems that draw from Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair or the Detroit River.

Q2. How was the Essex Region source protection plan developed?

The plan is the result of many years of work and public consultation. We congratulate the Essex Region source protection committee for creating a plan that safeguards its local drinking water sources.

This source protection committee is one of 19 established through the Clean Water Act. Each committee assessed potential risks to local water supplies. Members then led local discussions about the best way to address these risks, using this input to develop the source protection plan.

The committee consists of a chair and 15 members speaking for the local interests of the area.

Q3. Was the public consulted in the development of the Essex Region source protection plan?

Community engagement is a very important part of plan development.

The Essex Region source protection committee held public meetings, posted the draft plan on the internet, then the proposed plan, and consulted again with the public on proposed amendments.

The committee met their public consultation requirements.

Q4. What's the news?

The municipalities and conservation authority in the Essex Region have received provincial approval to implement a source protection plan beginning October 1, 2015. The plan, developed locally, sets out actions to address risks to the lakes and the river that supply water to the municipal drinking water systems in your area.

Source protection planning and implementation is all about protecting existing and future sources of drinking water. Protecting local drinking water sources is part of Ontario's drinking water safety net that starts at the source and continues until you turn on your tap.

Q5. What areas are identified in the plan?

Source protection plans protect the lakes, rivers and underground aquifers that supply water to municipal drinking water systems. This plan outlines actions to protect the seven local municipal drinking water systems in the area listed below, which all draw from surface water:

Lake Erie

Lake St. Clair

Detroit River

Harrow-Colchester South

Stoney Point

A.H. Weeks (also known as Windsor)

Union

Lakeshore (also known as Belle River)

Amherstburg

Pelee Island West Shore

Q6. How serious are the risks to the Essex Region drinking water supply?

The Essex Region source protection committee identified significant risks that could occur in the protection zones of their municipal drinking water systems. About one percent of the total source protection area has risks that could be significant.

The committee identified only two types of significant existing risks:

sewage activities, including a sewage treatment plant and combined sewers

storage and transportation of large quantities of fuel.

Some activities prohibited in the future if they are close to municipal intakes include livestock grazing and pasturing; application and storage of manure and biosolids; handling and storage of road salt and the storage of snow.

Q7. Why are you taking extra steps to protect source water through the Clean Water Act?

We learned from the events in Walkerton that the first step in ensuring safe drinking water is to protect the local supply of drinking water at the source.

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.

Source protection planning and implementation helps to ensure that local drinking water is protected in communities across the province.

Q8. What does the plan include?

Protecting Ontario's sources of drinking water is a shared responsibility. The Essex Region source protection plan gives responsibilities to municipalities, several provincial ministries, and the local conservation authority.

Examples of municipal actions include:

establishing risk management plans for the storage of fuel

developing a response plan in the event of a potential fuel spill

installing and maintaining municipal road signs in areas where potential spills are a concern

developing a sewer and stormwater management plan

researching Windsor's combined sewer overflows to help the city manage sewer and stormwater

developing an incentive program that will promote disconnecting downspouts, along with similar measures to address risks associated with combined sewer overflows, bypasses and effluent discharge.

Q9. How were the local First Nations involved?

One First Nations community, Caldwell First Nation, has a land interest within the Essex Region source protection area. However, when engaged they did not raise any concerns.

None of the policies in the plan are directed at First Nations, nor do the policies impact Aboriginal or Treaty rights.

Q10. Recently, Ontario gave money to municipalities for source protection. Did anyone in the Essex Region receive a grant?

Ontario is giving grants to small, rural municipalities to help offset start-up costs associated with implementing their source protection plans and collaborating with each other in this regard. In this area, five municipalities met the eligibility criteria when the program was launched in November 2013, and received over $325,000 in total.

The province invested over $7 million in the scientific assessment and development of the plans for the Essex Region source protection area.

As well, Ontario gave about $838,000 to residents living in the source protection area, under the Ontario Drinking Water Stewardship Program. This program helped landowners make changes to reduce or remove potential drinking water risks on their properties, in advance of the source protection plan approval.

Q11. Why are blue-green algae a concern to drinking water safety?

Cyanobacteria, commonly called blue-green algae, occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams. Usually the algae are not visible, until they become a bloom.

Typically, blooms form when nutrients are readily available in the water. Nutrients, such as phosphorus, come from agricultural or urban runoff, effluent from sewage treatment and industrial plants, and leaching from septic systems. Reducing or eliminating these nutrient inputs is a proactive way to reduce the occurrence of blue-green algal blooms.

Some blooms produce toxins ? a real threat to water quality, and human and animal health. Blooms may also produce compounds that affect how the water tastes and smells, and clog filters at drinking water treatment plants.

Q12. What does source protection planning in Essex Region do about the blue-green algae in the Lake Erie?

The Essex Region source protection committee is concerned with blue-green algae and microcystin-LR, a naturally occurring toxin produced by blue-green algae, in Lake Erie. To combat the lake's blue-green algae problem, the committee recommended educating the community and businesses on ways to reduce phosphorus. The committee also recommended continued monitoring of the water at Lake Erie intakes and tributaries to collect data on the presence of microcystin-LR and the possible sources of phosphorus. The committee intends to keep assessing this issue as more information becomes available through these monitoring programs.

The committee also recognized that fighting algae blooms in Lake Erie can only be achieved through collaboration across all watersheds draining into Lake Erie. In preparation for that discussion, the committee asked the Minister to set phosphorus targets for the Lake. This request aligns with Ontario's many commitments to take action on the phosphorus loadings in western Lake Erie. For example, Ontario has committed under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to develop binational phosphorus targets for Lake Erie by February 2016.

In addition to local actions, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has implemented a 12-point blue-green algae plan to diminish algal blooms in the Great Lakes and other lakes and rivers. To learn more about the plan, please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/blue-green-algae

Q13. When does the Essex Region source protection plan take effect?

The effective date for the Essex Region source protection plan is October 1, 2015. This timing will allow source protection partners, including municipalities and the local conservation authority, to continue to work together and effectively prepare for plan implementation.

Q14. Will the Essex Region source protection plan be updated in the future?

The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requires the Essex Region source protection authority to work with the source protection committee, the ministry, and the municipalities in the area, to develop a workplan outlining the future plan's review.

As the committee develops this work plan they will be asked if changes should be made to the source protection plan to address blue-green algae. The work plan is due in November 2018.