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Great Lakes Article:

Toronto Bay Holds 5,200 Times Legal Bacteria Levels

By MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT
ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
July 25, 2002 – Page A15
The Globe and Mail

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy has agreed to investigate the severe water pollution in Toronto's Ashbridges Bay after tests showed the popular waterfront area in Toronto's east end has E-coli levels up to 5,200 times higher than provincial standards.

The decision has delighted environmentalists, who say contaminants in the bay could pose a health risk to boaters, children and fishing enthusiasts, as the water appears to contain high levels of human waste.

"We're pleased to see that the ministry is investigating, and we hope the investigation will provide a way forward on cleaning up the problem," Lynda Collins, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, said.

The group took water tests in the bay last fall, and found extremely high levels of E-coli contamination. The tests ruled out birds and other animals as the source of the bacteria, and pointed to human fecal matter as the likely culpit.

On behalf of area residents upset by the smelly water, the fund asked the ministry in late April to launch a formal investigation into whether the city's nearby sewage-treatment system is the source of the contamination and is breaking provincial water-protection rules.

The ministry has written to the residents saying it has agreed to investigate their complaints.

The area is believed to be heavily contaminated because many older Toronto neighbourhoods have antiquated combined sanitary and storm-sewer pipes. When it rains, the city's sewage-treatment facility at Ashbridges Bay can't handle the amount of water running off streets and being flushed down toilets. The excess effluent is dumped with little treatment into the lake.

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