Blue Green Algae on the Vermilion River System

It is time to recognize that the cumulative effects of dumping effluent from 9 waste water treatment plants into the Vermilion River Watershed is having dangerous effects on the Vermilion River and its connecting lakes.  Cyanobacteria, or Blue Green Algae, has been reported all the way from Simon Lake, McCharles Lake, into the Vermilion River system, and as far down as Wabagishik Lake.  Many citizens rely on the Vermilion River for their drinking water, for bathing, food preparation, and it has been very costly and frightening.  Cyanobacteria produce toxins that are at least a nuisance, but at their worst are life threatening to people, pets and wildlife.

There are currently 4 proposals for hydroelectric dams going through the Environmental Assessment (EA) process, and Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner for Ontario, states in his 2007/8 Annual Report that “the EA process is broken, and there is no possibility of a no outcome”.   The EA process is a developer- led process, and developers are placed in charge of deciding what the public should and shouldn’t know, how they are going to conduct their field studies, and how much environmental flow will be left in the river.    There is a huge incentive for the developer to wring every possible drop out of the river to earn that 50% peaking bonus.  Our government has virtually put the fox in charge of the Chicken Koop.

These types of dams will hold water back for up to 48 hours to produce power during peak demand hours at a 50% bonus to the developer, and are purported to produce Green Energy, but in fact produce “Dirty Energy”.  There are numerous studies to back up this claim, including ones by Health Canada and MNR.  Water levels and flow have been so low these last few summers that it is hard to imagine how a developer could make money producing energy on these rivers, and they actually couldn’t without the peaking bonus offered by the FIT Program.

We are already having trouble with Cyanobacteria on the Vermilion River without these dams.  But what will happen when river water has been sitting in a head pond for up to 48 hours, has an opportunity to warm in the sun for a few days, and has the additional loading of 5 upstream waste water treatment facilities pumping their effluent into this upper arm of the Vermilion River?     And then, this water blends with the additional 4 waste water plants pumping effluent from the Simon Lake end of the Vermilion River Watershed.

For the protection of its citizens, Sudbury City Council must ensure these dams are not built!    There are 13,000 people alone receiving water from the Vale Public Water Intake on this upper arm of the Vermilion, not to mention the people living along the Vermilion River system who rely on this water for their daily needs.

Sudbury must also take positive steps, in a timely fashion, towards ensuring that all nine of their Waste Water Treatment Facilities are equipped with tertiary treatment – primary and secondary treatment is no longer adequate with Climate Change now upon us.

We must ensure healthy river systems and clean water for our future generations.

Linda Heron

Chair, Vermilion River Stewardship

“Community Supporting a Healthy, Natural and Sustainable River System”