the city of toronto the largest polluter of water in Canada? Yes, according to the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP).
A recent survey of pollution stats by CIELAP reveals that the city is discharging hundreds of tonnes of harmful ammonia into Lake Ontario from its sewage treatment plant at Ashbridges Bay every year and, in the process, degrading water quality as well as fish and aquatic habitat.
The findings, based on figures reported to the federal environment ministry's national pollution-release inventory, constitute a warning, says CIELAP executive director Anne Mitchell, that the city needs to develop alternative ways to treat its waste effluent. Studies she's looked at have linked long-term exposure to ammonia, a known toxin, to liver ailments.
Other serious polluters cited in CIELAP's report include sewage treatment plants in Ottawa-Carlton, Montreal and Medicine Hat, Alberta.
But Bob Pickett, T.O.'s director of water pollution control, says the CIELAP review only looked at one particular pollutant. To say the city is the "largest single polluter in the country" is therefore a stretch. "They're taking a rather myopic view," says Pickett. "I'd stack our treatment plant against any in the country." He says ammonia is simply a by-product of sewage.
Ammonia is also added to the water that eventually makes its way to drinking taps across the city. Pickett says that even though ammonia is a toxin -- the feds are currently looking to classify the chemical as such -- it does not pose any significant health risk to humans.