Report: E. coli and floatable trash still dangerous issue in Toronto harbor

Nov 12, 2018

Sewage released into Lake Ontario near Toronto’s popular harbor area is still a problem, according to a recently released report.

A water quality report completed by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper showed  dangerously high E. coli levels, as well as floatables, things like used condoms, tampons and trash, are a consistent problem for Toronto’s harbor area.

Mark Mattson is waterkeeper’s founder and president, he says the problem, is the city’s combined sewer overflow system or (CSOs). There are 9 CSO outfalls along the city’s shoreline.

It’s usually after a major rain event, that E. coli levels are elevated in the Great Lakes. But, Mattson says their group of volunteers tested the water, twice a week from May through September and found disturbing results, even when it wasn’t raining.

"And the results, of course, usually for some of the sites, were very high in E. coli when it rained, but what was surprising was that some of the sites were high in E. coli even when it didn’t rain," he said.

Among other things, the organization is calling for the city to post signage, monitor CSO outlets near areas frequently used for recreation, and clean up the sewage debris after major rain events.

"We’re hoping, that now is the defining moment," Mattson said. "This is the time where the city has to make a real decision going forward, whether to clean the water up and make it fit for recreational use, or they really do need to begin to push people off the water there."

The city of Toronto issued a statement in response to waterkeeper’s report. It stated that they do have a project underway that they hope will “virtually eliminate” the issue of E. Coli and floatables caused by the city's CSOs.