Dr. Norman Yan, PhD, FRSC
Chair – Friends of the Muskoka Watershed
Friends of Muskoka Watershed (FMW) has just submitted a grant application to the Ontario Trillium Foundation with the purpose of raising public awareness of this issue. After all, awareness is the essential first step to generating the will for action. Assuming we are successful with the application we will hire a “Halt the Salt” advocate to:
- Speak to local councils, service clubs, schools, libraries, and local news media about the issue; prepare and distribute fact sheets on when and how little salt is needed; and inform the community of the costs of road salt to water, trees, vehicles, infrastructure, pets, and clothing.
- Build the will to act by Issuing a “Halt the Salt” challenge to the community, market the “Halt the Salt” goal; reach out to school and commercial property owners asking them to track and reduce salt use, and report their success at town meetings; and work with the Muskoka Discovery Centre to take on “Halt the Salt” in their educational programs.
We are confident that we can solve this road salt problem. We have solved previous pollution problems in the bay, i.e. the excessive phosphorus loading that caused algal blooms in the 50s. Have a look at the graph below:
This graph* shows measured (after 1950), and lake sediment-inferred (the earlier data) phosphorus levels in the Muskoka Bay over the last 250 years. Today’s levels are similar to what they were 250 years ago, but it took an effort to get back there. Early settlement and land clearing led to a doubling of phosphorus in the bay in the 1800s and early 1900s, then levels spiked with sewage input in the mid-1950s. With those levels, blue-green algal blooms were a common sight. This graph shows how our community managed to cut phosphorous in Muskoka Bay from disastrously-high levels in the 1950s. The next challenge is to do the same thing for rising salt levels.
*Data sources for the graph:
- Pre-1954: diatom inferred TP levels from Little et al. 2000. paleolimnology paper from the PEARL lab at Queen’s University
- Past trophic state and hypolimnetic anoxia and remediation of Gravenhurst Bay, Ontario: comparison of diatoms, chironomids and historical records. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 57: 333-341.
- 1969-1975: Dillon et al. 1978 publication
- 1977-2001: MOE data
- >2001: MOE Lake Partner program and DMM Water Quality Data