What’s In Your Water?

By Alyssa BeurlingThe Town of Ajax sits along seven kilometres of beautiful and uninterrupted shoreline along the northern side of Lake Ontario, and for over 50 years now the Town’s Council has focused on creating an open, swimmable, green and accessible waterfront for residents. Although drastic improvements have been made the lakeshore is now experiencing nuisance algal blooms, and a recent study indicates effluent from the nearby Duffins Creek Wastewater Pollution Treatment Plant (DCWPTP) in Pickering is to blame.Over the years the Town of Ajax has partnered with Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) to remove litter and ecological debris, as well as stormwater pipes from the beaches in an effort to improve its aesthetic quality. In recent months Sierra Club also joined forces with the Town of Ajax to help increase shoreline water quality by working on projects which naturally divert and filter stormwater runoff reaching the beaches. Millions of dollars have been invested over the years and residents are embracing the improvements, although recent algae blooms have deterred residents with foul odors and decreased water quality.The problem blooms are a direct result of high phosphorus levels and were thought to be a result of high effluent volumes being released from DCWPTP, although York and Durham Region denied this. In spite of suspicions the Region plans to increase the plant’s daily discharge volume to accommodate increasing development in York Region; standing to gain profits, while surely exacerbating Ajax’s current problem. In an effort to confidently pinpoint the true source of the problem and ensure proper action by the Region, the Town of Ajax hired a scientist by the name of Martin Auer to determine the cause of the outbreaks. His research was clear; he concluded high phosphorus concentrations and subsequent algae blooms could in fact be attributed to the nearby DCWPTP and specific weather conditions which distribute the effluent across Ajax’s shoreline.In light of these new findings the Region’s next step should be to perform a proper environmental assessment of the situation so that appropriate phosphorus standards can be put in place, prior to increasing the outflow volume. Although Ajax has made many recreational and ecological improvements along their beaches, the shoreline waters and beach quality are being negatively affected by algal blooms which cause bad odor and can harbor harmful diseases. Ajax’s beach quality is under serious threat, and unless York and Durham Region address their current role in the situation the problem will only continue to get worse.ReferencesAuer, M. (2014). Field Studies of Phosphorus and Cladophora in Lake Ontario along the Ajax, Ontario Waterfront. Town of Ajax. Retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/ks4ycg9 Environment Canada. (2012). Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Retrieved from Environment Canada website: http://tinyurl.com/q8sh87sTown of Ajax. (2011). Ajax Shoreline Improvement Strategy. Retrieved from:http://tinyurl.com/mk42rb4 Town of Ajax. (2014). Save Our Waterfront: A Call for Action from Ajax Council [Video file].  Retrieved from: http://www.ajax.ca/en/doingbusinessinajaxWinsa, P. Toronto Star Replica Edition. The Toronto Star; October, 4, 2014. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/kccahqp