An Ecojustice report ranks 12 Ontario municipalities and finds that many are still polluting local bodies of water with sewage, endangering plant and animal species and making water unsafe for recreational use.

“The Great Lakes Basin provides drinking water for millions and is an essential part of life for Ontarians,” said Liat Podolsky, Ecojustice staff scientist and the report’s author. “We’re urging municipalities to reduce sewage pollution and keep Ontario’s water swimmable, drinkable and fishable.”

The sewage pollution outlined in the report includes a foul cocktail of biological and chemical pollutants, including human waste, bacteria such as E. coli, and toxic chemicals. In the 2013 Great Lakes Sewage Report Card, Ecojustice analyzed 12 Ontario municipalities for their sewage treatment and discharges. London and Windsor tied for last place. Peel Region took top honours, York and Durham were ranked second.

Ecojustice recommends that all levels of government fund major sewage wastewater treatment upgrades to reduce sewage pollution. It also suggests that municipalities prioritize sewage infrastructure spending and invest in improved reporting of sewage pollution events so Ontarians are able to better protect their communities from harm.

“Ontarians deserve to know when their local body of water has been contaminated,” Podolsky said. “Alerting Ontarians to the frequency and size of this problem will ensure this issue gets the attention and investment it deserves.”

The report found that many of Ontario’s cities have outdated sewers that combine sewage and stormwater and are prone to overflows during heavy rainfall. When this happens, sewage is released into local water bodies with little to no treatment. It’s called a combined sewer overflow. Sewage bypasses and spills are also common when treatment plants are overloaded by wet weather.

The Great Lakes Sewage Report Card [2013] analyzes and grades the sewage management programs of Peel Region, York and Durham, Collingwood, Kitchener-Waterloo, Midland, Brockville, Sarnia, Sudbury, St. Catharines, Toronto, London and Windsor.

In addition to ranking and grading the municipalities, the report provides an analysis of the region’s sewage treatment laws and policies, and offers recommendations to ensure the protection of water quality in the Great Lakes for future generations.

This report is a follow-up to 2006’s Great Lakes Sewage Report Card, which surveyed 20 American and Canadian cities in the Great Lakes Basin. That report found that 92 billion litres of raw sewage, mixed with stormwater, were released into the Great Lakes in one year.

Municipalities, ranked from last to first:

12. Windsor (C-)

11. London (C-)

10. Toronto (C)

9. St. Catharines (C)

8. Sudbury (C)

7. Sarnia (C+)

6. Brockville (B)

5. Midland (B)

4. Kitchener-Waterloo (B+)

3. Collingwood (B+)

2. York and Durham (B+)

1. Peel Region (A-)