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Water and Wastewater

A Healthy Lake Ontario

 

Lake Ontario is an important part of every life in the Region of Peel. It is the source of drinking water for Brampton and Mississauga and some parts of Caledon. It is also a place for leisure activities and beautiful views.


It is important to understand how our choices and behaviours impact the overall health of the Lake.

Taking care of the Lake is a smart way of protecting the quality of our drinking water, and the beauty of our lakeshore.

How you use water has an impact

Lake Ontario gets water from many sources. The creeks, streams and rivers in our neighbourhood eventually reach the Lake. The first step in understanding how our everyday activities can negatively impact it, is knowing that the water we use everyday returns to Lake Ontario.

Water inside your home
When you use water inside your home, to wash dishes or brush your teeth, to shower or flush the toilet – the used water becomes wastewater and travels to a treatment plant before entering Lake Ontario.

Treating wastewater means many of the products that have been added, like dish soap, or shampoo is removed before entering the Lake. This is positive in protecting the health of the Lake, but unfortunately the treatment process cannot remove all traces of these products.

Being aware of what we put down the drain means the treated wastewater entering the Lake will be as clean as possible.

Water outside your home
When you use water outside your home, to wash your car or water your lawn after fertilizing it – the used water travels directly to Lake Ontario without being treated. Rain water and snow melt also travels directly to Lake Ontario. Outdoor water flows into the storm sewer and then directly into streams, creeks and ponds and then into Lake Ontario.

What this means is that the soap you use to wash your car, or the fertilizer you put on the lawn, can travel directly to the Lake. There is no process in place for removing these chemicals or nutrients.

Thinking twice about what you do outside your home, is an easy way to stop products from reaching the Lake.

The effect of nutrients and chemicals on our water

Water is full of life. Plant life grows within them and they are home to fish and other organisms. When chemicals and nutrients are added to the water, the delicate balance can be changed.

One example of this is the attached green algae in Lake Ontario. This algae is called Cladophora. It grows during the summer and lives on nutrients such as phosphorous that make their way into the Lake. Phosphorous can be found n many of the products we use at home, such as soaps and fertilizers. When the algae decays, it causes unpleasant odours and unattractive shorelines.

Read more on algae in Lake Ontario.

Understanding that our action can impact Lake Ontario (and other bodies of water) is the first step toward making some small changes that can have a big impact.

How you can help keep Lake Ontario healthy

As explained above, our everyday actions can impact our environment in many ways. Knowing how to make smart choices is the easiest way to ensure the health of our environment.

Your lawn and garden
In the spring and summer most homeowners work on their yards, adding fertilizer to their lawns and gardens and dealing with weeds and insects. When you fertilize your lawn and then it rains, or you water it, the nutrients in chemicals make their way into the storm sewer, into creeks and rivers and directly into Lake Ontario.

It is very important to read the instructions carefully on fertilizers and other chemicals and make sure you don’t over apply. Keeping fertilizers on lawns and off of pathways and driveways is also a good way to reduce unnecessary run off.

If you are unsure what fertilizer to buy, consider phosphate-free.

There are many natural ways to deal with insects and weeds. For more tips on caring for your lawn visit our outdoor lawn and garden website.

Washing your car
When the sun is shining, there is nothing more tempting than to get outside and wash your car. But this simple, pleasurable activity can have very harmful effects. The soap and grease that you wash off your car flows directly into the storm sewer, into creeks and rivers and into Lake Ontario. This water is not treated and the harmful chemicals are not removed.

If you like a clean car, take it to a local car wash. The car wash collects the used water and it goes to the wastewater treatment facility before entering Lake Ontario.

Tips on buying green
Inside our homes we use products for a range of things. Cleaners help kill bacteria, soaps wash our dishes and clothes, and shampoos keep us clean. All of these products add nutrients like phosphorous to the wastewater leaving our homes.

When you’re at the store, take a minute to read the label. Choosing phosphate-free or environmentally friendly products more often, is always a good choice.

Other smart habits to adopt

  • Take all household hazardous waste, such as left over paint, oil or chemicals to a local community recycling centre for proper disposal. One drop of oil can pollute 25 litre of water.

  • There are many other items that can be harmful to our water systems. Never pour anything down the drain or in the toilet.

  • Don’t litter. Unwanted garbage washes into Lake Ontario, affecting the shoreline and hurting birds, fish and other animals.

  • When walking your pet, be sure to bring a bag and clean up any messes. Feces can contaminate our water sources as well.

  • Consider making your own natural cleaning products.

  • A Healthy Lake Ontario Brochure (PDF 224kb, 2pgs)

Revised: Thursday June 23 2011

www.peelregion.ca

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