Blue Green Algae Bloom – NDCA Response to Flowers

December 13, 2011

Dear Ms. Flowers:

Re: Vermilion River Watershed Concerns

Thank you very much for your letter dated November 30, 2011 which was received by the Nickel District
Conservation Authority (NDCA) on December 7,2OL1.

I have read your letter and note that you have outlined four main issues of concern. First, the blue-green
algae bloom which was confirmed on a portion of the lower Vermilion River in early Fall. Second, the
potential impacts on water quality from sewage treatment plant facilities located in different subwatersheds
which feed into the Vermilion River watershed. Third, the low water levels and flows in the
Vermilion River and Junction Creek (McCharles Lake area) this past Summer.  Fourth, how the issue of
low water response is addressed and what agencies have responsibilities in that regard.

I have reviewed your issues of concern with Paul Sajatovic the NDCA’s General Manager.  It would be
best to meet with you to discuss the issues you have raised as well as the complexities associated with
water management in the Vermilion River watershed. Following our meeting, we would summarize our
discussions in writing so that you might share them with the stewardship group. Please contact Paul at
the NDCA office to arrange a meeting at a mutually convenient time in the near future.

You are, perhaps, aware that Linda Heron the Chair of the Vermilion River Stewardship group will be
appearing before the NDCA General Board on January 19,2012. You may want to attend with Linda. We
welcome watershed residents to our meetings. We can provide up to 15 minutes for presentations
followed by a question and answer period.

On behalf of the Nickel District Conservation Authority, I thank you for your submission. Let me assure
you that as the stewards of our watersheds in Greater Sudbury, the NDCA takes its responsibilities very
seriously.   Lesley, we look forward to meeting with you very soon.
Yours truly,

Bob Rogers,
cc. NDCA General Board Members
Ms. Linda Heron, Vermilion River Stewardship
Paul Sajatovic, NDCA General Manager.

Download letter – NDCAtoFlowers.

Blue Green Algae Bloom – Flowers to NDCA

Lesley Flowers

Bob Rogers
Chair, Nickel District Conservation Authority Board
200 Brady St. Tom Davies Square
Sudbury ON P3E 5K3

November 30, 2011

Dear Mr. Rogers:

I would like to make the Nickel District Conservation Authority aware of a condition that emerged on the lower Vermillion River in early October of this year and ask for help to prevent a recurrence. During the warm weather with very low water levels, the river supported a considerable Blue-Green Algae bloom until plenty of rain and colder temperatures seemed to kill it. The bloom was in the current of the river, rather than in bays and shallow areas so it came in the flow as opposed to developing from nutrients coming from the shoreline.

The nutrients are likely a result of waste water effluent from the upstream sewage treatment plants and the weather was unseasonably warm and sunny. Hopefully in time, sewage treatment will improve but unfortunately climate change might not. The water level of the river at this time was very low since there was little rain fall and the waters flowing from the north were much reduced.

What might be worth looking at through the N.D.C.A. is the amount of water, in the Vermillion River north of Highway 17, that was available to the lower part of the river. The falls visible from Regional Road 55 under the railway bridge were reduced to a very small stream in the late summer and early fall. Could the possibility of a bloom have been mitigated if less water had been held back at Stobie Dam? Usually the stream from McCharles Lake and back to Junction Creek is diluted with this water from the north. Is this part of the N.D.C.A.’s mandate? Is water level monitored at all levels of the Vermillion River? Is it only flooding that is a concern and not low water?

I am unsure of the role N.D.C.A. plays in low water situations, although I did read the information on the website and on the website of the Ministry of Natural Resources which did indicate a protocol for low water problems. I just do not understand what would constitute low water and whether a Blue-Green Algae bloom would constitute reason for action.
I am writing this letter as an individual but I am a member of the community that lives along the lower Vermillion River and I will share the letter and response with the Vermillion River Stewardship. I hope that answers to my questions can help this community deal with this problem.

Lesley Flowers
Cc:  Paul Sajatovic, N.D.C.A.
Linda Heron, Vermillion River Stewardship

Download letter.

Cyanobacteria Bloom in Lake Erie – an EcoJustice Report

View of the toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie from space (NASA)

In the early fall of 2011, the Vermilion River had a Cyanobacteria outbreak that affected several interconnected lakes, and lasted until the heavy rains came in late October.   This outbreak was extremely disturbing to local residents who use water from the Vermilion for their daily household needs, and also for those who use the river for swimming and fishing.   Cyanobacteria can be highly toxic and poses a life threat to people and animals.

The long warm summer and fall season most likely was a big part of the problem, however, the nine sewage treatment plants dumping treated, and sometimes partially or untreated effluent into the Vermilion River Watershed might also be fueling the problem.   A 2009 EcoJustice Report pointed out the City of Sudbury as the fourth highest City in Ontario for dumping partially treated and untreated waste water effluent into the environment.   Since then the City of Sudbury Waste Water Treatment staff have made an exerted effort to improve their record, and we thank them for that.  However, it is now up to the City and taxpayers to step up to the plate and ensure that tax dollars are invested in upgrades to our local Waste Water Treatment Facilities to include tertiary treatment – a third level of treatment in the process.  Also City storm water must drain into storm water holding areas instead of being released directly into the Vermilion River system.

As you can see by the above picture, cyanobacteria is also becoming a major problem in the Great Lakes, because of global warming.  This is causing warmer water temperatures, and heavy rains which can overwhelm waste water treatment facilities, washing effluent and fertilizers, etc., into our watersheds, and ultimately into the Great Lakes.  Please check out the EcoJustice website which has an excellent article addressing this problem.   Click here to go to the article.

Lively/Walden Waste Water Treatment Facilities undergoing a Class “C” Environmental Assessment

The Lively/Walden Waste Water Treatment Facilities are in Phase 3 of a Class “C” Environmental Assessment, and Consultants are very close to taking their preferred plan to City Council for their approval.   I was asked to make a presentation to the Lake Advisory Panel on October 13, 2011, and I have included my presentation for your information.

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”

Blue Green Algae Outbreak on the Vermilion River

On September 30, 2011, it was reported that green blobs of something that looked suspiciously like Cyanobacteria, or more commonly known as Blue Green Algae, was seen floating on the Vermilion River.  A few days later the Ministry of Environment confirmed our suspicions.    In an attempt to find the source of this outbreak the writer visited Centennial Park to observe the conditions on the northern arm of the Vermilion, and that water looked quite clear, however, upon visiting Mud Lake, Kelly Lake, Simon Lake and McCharles Lakes, the Blue Green Algae was also observed in Simon and McCharles Lakes.   MOE has subsequently confirmed the outbreak on McCharles, however, based on a picture sent to the officer, he chose not to take a sample on Simon Lake – and it was the Friday before the long weekend after all.   However, it was reported that a dead goose was found on the public beach next to the sighting, and there were also reports of dead suckers found floating on Simon.   It is not surprising to hear that residents further downstream, on Wabagishik Lake, are also reporting the presence of this blue green scum there as well.  MOE has not been called out to take a sample there, and so it is not confirmed.

Blue Green Algae blooms, can be highly toxic to people, pets and wildlife, so precautions must be taken.  To learn more about how this will affect those people using river water for drinking, swimming, washing, or even eating fish from the river, then you will find some excellent information at Sudbury and District Health Department, and/or Health Canada.    Ministry of the Environment also has an excellent pamphlet Blue-green Algae – Information for Cottagers and Home Owners to round out your knowledge on this subject.

You can also check out this excellent slide presentation made by Charles Ramcharan, of Laurentian University’s Fresh Water Ecology Unit, at our Stewardship meeting held on Tuesday, 11 October 2011.

Charles Ramcharan’s Presentation on Cyanobacteria
(click on “Expand” below to view):

Cyanobacteria - Blue Green Algae Bloom found on Vermilion River

Cyanobacteria - Blue Green Algae - Found on Simon Lake