4 January 2012

Nickel District Conservation Authority
200 Brady Street, 1st Floor,
Tom Davies Square
Sudbury, ON
P3E 5K3
Email: paul.sajatovic@sudbury.ca

Attention: Paul Sajatovic, General Manager

Dear Mr. Sajatovic:

Re: Water Quality

The Vermilion River Stewardship (VRS) is a Not-for-Profit organization, acting as a voice for the Vermilion River and its stakeholder Communities, to support a healthy, natural and sustainable river ecosystem. VRS is very concerned about a public health and safety issue that occurred on the Vermilion River last fall, and is looking to Nickel District Conservation Authority (NDCA) for help in addressing our questions and concerns.

In October of last year a Cyanobacteria outbreak was reported on Simon Lake, McCharles Lake, and the Vermilion River, all the way through to Wabagishik Lake. The water flow and levels on the Vermilion, both this year and last, throughout the late summer and early fall months were extremely low, and that, combined with the effluent discharge from 9 Waste Water Treatment Facilities (WWTF), numerous lift stations, transfer stations, and sewage lagoons, has created the prime conditions for this toxic algae.

In a study by D.W. Schindleri, it was revealed that phosphorus is the limiting factor in determining whether algal blooms will occur in a water body, and that combined with these low flow and warm weather conditions was a likely cause of the Cyanobacteria bloom this year. As you know exposure to these blooms through drinking, swimming, bathing, or even breathing their toxic vapours in saunas, creates a health and safety threat to both humans and animals.

In the “Greater Sudbury Source Drinking Water Protection Proposed Assessment Report”, I assume Table 5.7ii addresses the additional risks of the 5 WWT plants and their related facilities, located above the Vale Public Water Intake (PIPZ10S – pathogens in an IPZ with a vulnerability of 10 where threats are significant). However, it is not clear if they are considered as a risk since these facilities are outside of IPZ 1 and 2, or if their cumulative effects are considered in this risk assessment report – please clarify. We also have the additional stress of the 4 WWT plants and their related facilities feeding into the lower Vermilion River Watershed through Junction Creek, and on into the Lower Vermilion River. The cumulative effects of the effluent discharge from all these WWTF is also heightened when heavy rain events necessitate bypassing of untreated or undertreated effluent into the environment.

To date there has been no Cyanobacteria reported on the northern arm of the Vermilion River where the Vale Public Water Intake is located; however, there is a likelihood of this occurring as scientists predict that climate change will increase the number of extreme rain and drought events, and our City of Sudbury waste water facilities were not built to deal with these extreme weather events.

VRS realizes the water going into the Vale Public Water Intake is treated; however, there are numerous questions that we would like answered with respect to the cumulative effects of treated and undertreated effluent discharge, and the threats that Cyanobacteria outbreaks could pose:

  1. Is there a communication protocol between CGS Water Wastewater and NDCA when a sewage bypass occurs?
  2. How are the 5 upstream CGS WWTF accounted for in the Greater Sudbury Source Drinking Water Protection Proposed Assessment Report?
  3. Please clarify how the CGS WWTFs’ cumulative effects are accounted for in this risk assessment report.
  4. To what degree would cyanobacteria toxins be eliminated from treated drinking water at the Vale Public Water Intake and private residences?
  5. What long-term effects would drinking this treated water have on human health and safety?
  6. What protection is provided for the hundreds of Vermilion River shoreline residents who rely on the River and/or its often highly vulnerable aquifers for all their drinking water and household requirements? Most residents do not:
    1. Have the facilities to detect these toxins in their well water, or to filter them out, and/or
    2. Have another convenient source of water available to them.
  7. What are the associated risks of a Cyanobacteria outbreak, or a waste water bypass, to shoreline residents who rely on the Vermilion River for their drinking water and household water needs?

VRS makes the following requests:

  1. Onaping Lake drawdown already begins in September, but could measures be taken to increase the rate of drawdown during the low flow months of September and October to increase water levels and flow in the Vermilion River?
  2. VRS requests a warning protocol to shoreline residents when WWTF bypasses or toxic algae events occur and water quality is compromised – similar to the one already established with the Ramsay Lake Algae Watch?
  3. VRS requests that private water intakes along the Vermilion River and its connecting lakes be included in NDCA’s Source Water Protection Risk Assessment protocol, and are formally included under the Clean Water Act.
  4. VRS requests NDCA develop a plan to adequately deal with reduction of risks, and that these risks be considered and included in the Source Water Protection Risk Assessment Report.

Many shoreline residents who rely on the Vermilion River system for their drinking water and household needs were extremely distressed and inconvenienced with the Cyanobacteria outbreak which occurred during the month of October, and VRS is requesting action be taken to avoid similar or more serious problems in the future.

VRS looks forward to your reply.

Linda Heron
Chair, Vermilion River Stewardship
CC: Nick Benkovich, Director Water/Waste Water – Nick.Benkovich@greatersudbury.ca
Judy Sewell, Project Co-ordinator – Judy.Sewell@sudbury.ca
Jacques Barbeau, Councillor Ward 4 – Jacques.Barbeau@city.greatersudbury.on.ca
France Gelinas, NDP, MPP – FGelinas-co@ndp.on.ca
Chief Steven Miller, Atikameksheng Anishnawbek – Chief@wlfn.com
Stephen Monet, City of Sudbury – Stephen.Monet@city.greatersudbury.on.ca
Stephen Butcher, Chair, GSWA – butchersm@bell.net
Perry Sarvas, Simon Lake Community Stewardship Group – Sarvas@vianet.ca

i Eutrophication and Recovery in Experimental Lakes: Implications for Lake Management, by D.W. Schindler, Fisheries & Marine Services, Freshwater Institute, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
ii Greater Sudbury Source Protection Assessment – Amended Property Assessment Report, Table 5.7, P 5-14

Download letter.