Toronto Water

Toronto Water: Not Down the Drain Campaign

In my role as the Chair of Public Works, I’m happy to advise that Toronto Water has launched a new public education campaign to change behaviour and raise awareness about items that shouldn’t be put down the drain.

Every day, many items are flushed down toilets or poured down the drain that should not be. Examples of items that could cause serious damage include fat, oil, grease, wipes and dental floss.

Putting these items down the drain or toilet could cause:

  • Damage or blockages to home plumbing, which may lead to basement flooding.

  • Damage or blockages to the City’s sewer pipes located under the streets, which may also lead to basement flooding.

  • Damage to pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants

  • Harm to the environment and aquatic habitat in the lake, local streams and rivers.

To learn more about items that shouldn’t be flushed or put down the drain, please visit this website.

Reviewing the Sewers Bylaw

For the past two years, Toronto Water has been conducting a review of the Sewers Bylaw. The purpose of the bylaw is to regulate the discharge of chemicals, or subject pollutants, into our city’s sanitary and storm sewers.

As part of the review process, I requested staff to conduct a comprehensive review of subject pollutants listed in the Sewers Bylaw. The goal is to determine whether there are additional chemicals of concern that may be impacting our wastewater treatment plant operations and should be added to this list.

A full review is not only sensible but also timely as the list hasn’t been updated since 2013. It will ensure that our bylaw aligns with the best practices and regulatory mechanisms of other levels of government.

The bottom line is that our water is constantly recycled and becomes our drinking water. It’s key that we work to reduce pollution at the source and ensure the protection of our water system.

You can read the full text of my motion here.

You can also read the Toronto Environmental Alliance’s response to my motion, which received unanimous support from the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee.

Frozen Pipes

As the cold weather approaches, it’s important to take steps to protect your pipes from freezing.  Not only can frozen pipes leave you without water, but the pipes may burst and cause damage to your home and property.

Here are some tips to help you prepare your pipes for the cold weather ahead.

  • It is important that you know the location of the main water shut-off valve in the event of a break.

  • Turn off the outdoor water supply and drain taps before the first freeze.

  • Insulate pipes that are susceptible to freezing, especially those outdoors, near outer walls and in crawl spaces. Pipes can be insulated by using foam pipe covers available for purchase at home building supply stores.

  • During extremely cold weather, let water trickle (just a thin stream) from the taps as water movement may help prevent pipes from freezing.

If frozen pipes are a reoccurring issue for you, you may want to hire a plumber to investigate whether there may be some underlying issue.

For more information, please visit this link.

Mandatory Downspout Disconnection

In Toronto, it’s mandatory for property owners to disconnect their downspouts from the city’s sewer system – doing so reduces the risk of basement flooding and improves our city’s water quality.

While mandatory downspout disconnection is already in effect for most of Toronto, the final area – including parts of Ward 25 – will be required to disconnect by December 3, 2016.

To see when your disconnection comes into effect, please view this map.

For more information on when you are required to disconnect, how to disconnect safely or what kinds of exemptions are available, please click here or call 311.

Get Involved: Basement Flooding Master Plan Environmental Assessment Study

As you may know, city staff are currently conducting a Basement Flooding Study Master Plan that covers parts of Wards 16, 22 and 25.

A Notice of Study Commencement was released in January 2016 and includes information about the study area and process.

The Project team has just released its second newsletter with useful information about what causes flooding and what the City can do to address surface and basement flooding. There’s also a link to an online survey – the survey gives residents the opportunity to participate early in the process.

You can also learn more about the study at an upcoming Public Information Centre (PIC) on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 from 6pm to 8pm at North Toronto Memorial Community Centre (200 Eglinton Ave. West).

At the PIC, you can view display boards about the study and speak one-on-one with project staff.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact Mae Lee, Senior Public Consultation Coordinator at either 416-392-8210 or rmlee@toronto.ca.

Toronto Water: Summer Tips

With warm weather finally upon us, Toronto Water has been reminding residents about the things they can do to help prevent flooding, conserve water and protect their homes.

Gardening

  • Use rainwater to water your grass and gardens.

  • Sweep sidewalks and driveways clean instead of using a running hose.

  • Start planning a water-efficient, natural garden using native plants and trees.

Car washing

  • The dirt on cars can contain toxic chemicals, heavy metals, oil and grease. To avoid having dirty water run into the storm sewer system, consider washing your car in a commercial car wash facility (these facilities are required to follow a set of practices determined by the city, including treating wastewater and discharging it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment).

Basement flooding

  • Clear eavestroughs and downspouts of debris.

  • Disconnect downspouts that empty into the City’s sewer system.

  • Don’t flush disposable wipes down the toilet.

  • Install a back-water valve or basement sump pump.

Have Your Say on Toronto’s Ravines

The city has been working with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) and consulting with the public since early 2015 to develop a strategy on Toronto’s ravines.

 

Ravines provide many important ecological benefits and recreation opportunities and are crucial to the functioning of the city. They are also a fragile resource. With population growth, new development and climate change putting increased pressure on ravines, a strategy to guide their future management, use, enhancement and protection is critical.

The strategy will aim to navigate the fine line between protection and use, and identify the actions and investments needed to ensure Toronto’s ravines remain resilient and can be enjoyed and celebrated for years to come.

Developed by Parks, Forestry and Recreation, together with City Planning and Toronto Water and in consultation with other City divisions, TRCA, the public and a wide range of stakeholders, this strategy is scheduled to be completed in April 2017.

For additional information, please click here.

To date, a vision and set of principles and actions have been developed to represent the core ideas and values that will guide the city in future decision-making related to ravines and address the challenges and opportunities in the ravine system. Before finalizing the principles and recommendations, city staff would like to hear from the public.

You’re invited to provide input by participating in the upcoming Ravine Strategy pop-up consultations, detailed below:

North York District:

  • Saturday, July 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Northwood Park (behind the community centre on the north side of the asphalt path), 15 Clubhouse Ct.
  • Friday, July 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Edithvale Community Centre, 131 Finch Ave. W.

Improving the City’s Infrastructure

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’m pleased to share that the city is engaging in an aggressive program of road construction and watermain replacement to improve its aging infrastructure.

In 2016 alone, we’re investing more than $550 million to maintain and improve our city’s core infrastructure, including $260 million on roads and bridges, $227 million on sewers and watermains and $71 million on basement flooding protection.

This construction work will have real long-term benefits for Torontonians such as improved transportation corridors and better public transit.

While necessary, there’s no doubt that construction causes disruption and inconvenience to road users and other residents that share the public realm.

In recent years, the city has embraced a multi-year capital coordination process to streamline and synchronize capital projects. Leading this process is the Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination Office (MCIC), established in in 2008.

The chief goals of the MCIC are to improve efficiency and delivery rates, avoid conflicts between different projects and minimize disruption for residents:

  • A multi-year perspective ensures that capital work is being completed in the right order. This means, for example, that underground work will precede construction at grade.
  • A multi-agency approach helps achieve efficiencies in construction such as effective work-zone coordination or joint excavation.
  • A multi-stage process further works to minimize disruption for residents by, for instance, coordinating with transit operations and ensuring proper maintenance of equipment.

The bottom line is that the city is taking important steps to ensure that capital projects follow a predictable, logical and cost-effective path to delivery – all to get this needed infrastructure work done with the least amount of inconvenience and disruption.

To stay up-to-date, check out T.O. INview, a web-based mapping system showing the locations and details of planned capital projects.

New Online Tools: MyWaterToronto and PlowTO

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’m pleased to share that the city has recently launched two exciting new online tools: MyWaterToronto and PlowTO.

Technology has become a constant in our daily routines and the city is jumping on board – we’re mobilizing start-of-the-art technology to improve customer service and save Torontonians time, money and resources.

With MyWaterToronto, residents can view their water use information anytime, anywhere via computer or mobile phone. The city’s new automated water meters send water consumption data directly to the city several times a day and effectively eliminate the need for property owners or city staff to take manual readings.  Right now MyWaterToronto is loaded with more than one billion water readings!

Because residents can track how much water they’re using, they can better understand their water use, identify potential leaks and consider ways to save both water and money.

On PlowTO’s webpage, thanks to GPS data, residents can see the real-time location of plows, sidewalk plows and salt trucks. This tool gives Torontonians a better sense of when and where the city’s fleet of service vehicles have traveled during and after a winter storm.

During my two terms in office, I’ve fielded a number of inquiries from residents about winter operations and high water bills. So far the feedback I’ve received on these new web-based tools has been overwhelmingly positive.

Harnessing technology to provide better and more transparent city services is clearly a big step in the right direction for Toronto.

Managing Toronto’s Water Treatment System – Microbeads

Our city works hard to maintain high water safety and treatment standards. Toronto Water conducts more tests – for more substances – than is required by the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Standards.

We as residents can do our part by showing caution with what we discharge into our city’s wastewater system and, by extension, our major freshwater ecosystem, Lake Ontario.

You may have read in the news about mircrobeads, small plastic particles commonly found in many body washes, face scrubs and toothpastes, among other products. The very small size of microbeads means that they typically bypass municipal wastewater treatment systems.

In 2013, 1.1 million plastic particles per square kilometer were found in Canada’s five Great Lakes, with the highest concentration found in our own backyard – Lake Ontario.

In December 2015, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill banning companies from using microbeads in their products. The Canadian federal government is currently developing similar legislation.

It’s also important to remember that pharmaceuticals should not be flushed or disposed of in garbage or green bins.

Pharmacies in Toronto have a “take back” program and will safely dispose of any hazardous waste.

In December 2015, I had the pleasure of hearing presentations by Greenwood College’s Grade 8 Class on how microbeads affect our water. As Chair of Public Works, I was very impressed by their research and hard work.

In December 2015, I had the pleasure of hearing presentations by Greenwood College’s Grade 8 Class on how microbeads affect our water. As Chair of Public Works, I was very impressed by their research and hard work.

Basement Flooding Master Plan Environmental Assessment Study

City staff are currently conducting a Basement Flooding Study Master Plan that covers parts of Wards 16, 22, 15 and 25.

A Notice of Study Commencement was recently released and includes information about the process as well as upcoming public consultations.

The project team also released its first newsletter with frequently asked questions and a link to their online survey so that residents can participate early in the process.

For more information, please click here.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact Mae Lee, Senior Public Consultation Coordinator, at either 416-392-8210 or rmlee@toronto.ca.

Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

As the cold weather approaches, it’s important to take steps to protect your pipes from freezing. Frozen pipes can leave you without water. They can also burst and cause damage to your home and property.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent your pipes from freezing:

Be knowledgeable

  • Make sure you know where the main water shut-off valve is in your home and how to turn it on and off.

Insulate pipes

  • Insulate pipes with foam pipe covers. Outside pipes and those located near outside walls and crawl spaces are at the greatest risk of freezing.

Eliminate drafts

  • Seal all air leaks in your home and garage to prevent cold air from getting in. Double-check around doors, windows, electrical wiring and pipes.

Drain the outdoor water supply

  • Outdoor faucets freeze first. Unscrew outdoor hoses, let the taps drain, and turn off the outdoor water supply.

Know a plumber

  • Have the contact information of a reliable plumber readily available. If your pipes are continually freezing, there may be an underlying plumbing problem that requires professional assistance.

When the weather drops significantly below 0ºC, ensure that areas containing indoor pipes (especially those near the water meter) are maintained at 8ºC or higher. Consider opening cabinet doors to let warm air circulate around the pipes. It’s also a good idea to keep your garage door closed during extremely cold weather.

For extra peace of mind during a cold snap, you can also turn on your tap to run a pencil-thin stream of water. This will ensure some movement of water in the pipes. Remember, though, you will incur fees for water use if you opt to take this step.

Top Tips for Summer

Yard Waste

From mid-March to December, leaf and yard waste is collected every other week on your scheduled garbage day. City staff advise that you should wait until the evening before your collection date to put your waste on the curb.

The city collects plant and tree trimmings, weeds, brush and bundles of branches, but does not collect soil, sod, grass clippings, logs or tree stumps. Instead, compost grass clippings or reuse them on your lawn – an easy way to maintain nutrient-rich soil!

Toronto Water

Gardening

  • Disconnect your downspout and use rainwater to water your grass and gardens.

  • Extra watering is not always required – the rain is often enough.

  • Sweep sidewalks and driveways clean instead of using a hose.

  • Start planning your water-efficient, natural garden using native plants and trees.

Environment and Water Efficiency

  • Use commercial car wash facilities to wash your car – they are required to follow a set of practices determined by the city, including treating wastewater and discharging it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment.

  • A leaky toilet or tap can cost an extra $600/month – fix leaks to avoid being charged.

  • It costs only $0.002 to fill a reusable water bottle.

  • Pool water may contain chemicals. Click here for pool drainage tips and advice.

  • The city doesn’t conduct door-to-door water tests – be careful of sales people making that claim.

For more information on how you can be more water efficient, please click here.

Chair, Public Works & Infrastructure Committee

Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

I’m honoured to serve as Chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee, one of the city’s seven Standing Committees.

I asked for a substantive portfolio and Public Works is it

With a budget of more than $2 billion, Public Works oversees four of the city’s key divisions – Transportation Services, Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management and Engineering & Construction Services. It’s responsible for an incredibly diverse array of issues: congestion, gridlock, drinking water, storm sewers, roads, bridges, sidewalks, highways, speed limits, bike lanes, bike safety, waste collection, recycling and street furniture, to name a few!

Traffic, gridlock and congestion were front and centre during the campaign – in Ward 25 and across the city – and, as I told the Toronto Sun, “it’s my number one priority.”

Last week, I sat down with Stephen Buckley, the General Manager of Transportation Services, to discuss what we can do right now to improve congestion and to tour our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre.

Briefings with other key staff and divisional leads are already scheduled – it’s a big job and I can’t wait to get to work!

Construction Coordination Update

We’re at the tail end of an unprecedented construction season.

The increased construction activity signals much needed and long overdue investment in our city’s basic infrastructure but also brings congestion and disruption.

That’s why the city is redoubling its construction coordination efforts.

I recently met with the Director of the city’s Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination (MCIC) group – the lead on construction coordination.

MCIC’s job is to organize and connect key stakeholders from city divisions (Water, Transportation, TTC), third-party utility and telecommunication companies (Toronto Hydro, Enbridge, Rogers, Bell) as well as private developers, share information and identify opportunities to bundle and streamline work.

MCIC’s role does not end when construction starts. Once shovels are in the ground, MCIC is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce congestion and disruption, including accelerating or decelerating construction activity or implementing short term signal changes on surrounding streets, among other things.

Of course, there is always room for improvement – I see it day in and day out.

Please let me know if you see an example of poor construction coordination by sending me an email or calling my office. Each and every example can help us improve the city’s response going forward!

Learning from the Ice Storm

The city’s comprehensive review of its response to December’s ice storm came to July’s City Council meeting.

The review includes key recommendations to improve the city’s response to extreme weather events that grew out of motions I brought forward earlier this year.

Information was difficult to find during the storm, and the review calls for the development of new and proactive communication channels, particularly for vulnerable populations and those experiencing power disruptions.

As you know, our tree canopy was hard hit by the storm, and another important recommendation directs Urban Forestry to work with Toronto Hydro to review its hydro-line clearing program and improve our grid’s resiliency going forward.

Phase 3 of Hoggs Hollow Stormwater and Road Improvement Project Begins!

As I mentioned in April, the first and second phase of the city’s $24-million Hoggs Hollow stormwater management and road improvements project are complete and construction on the third phase has just begun.

Construction is starting soon on the following streets:

  • Donwoods Drive from Knightswood Road to Donino Avenue;
  • Donwoods Grove;
  • Winton Road;
  • Plymbridge Road from the bridge to Donwoods Drive; and,
  • Donwoods Drive from Donino Avenue to Ivor Road.

The work involves storm sewer installation and road reconstruction. Phase IV is set to get underway in the second half of 2014.

See the construction notice below for more information.

For more information about any aspect of the project, you can contact Manveer Ramburrun, the Project Engineer, at mrambur@toronto.ca or (416) 395-1112.

Lead Pipes and Water Quality

As you may have read, the Toronto Star published a story on water quality tests that showed elevated lead levels in a number of Toronto homes and mentioned North Toronto.

I immediately reached out to the General Manager of Toronto Water and met with the city’s Medical Officer of Health for background as well as an update on what the city is doing to combat the issue. As I told the Toronto Star, when there’s an issue with a “critical” municipal service, the city needs to act quickly.

According to Toronto Water, the problem is caused by lead service pipes that connect the city’s main water line to individual houses. This service line was commonly made of lead prior to the mid 1950s. That is, this is an issue for older homes built before the mid 1950s.

According to the Medical Officer of Health, even where the lead levels are elevated, the health effects are minimal and no one will get sick as a result. Nevertheless, we need to work to reduce our exposure to lead across the board and the city is taking action.

In 2011, City Council approved the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Strategy, a four-part plan to minimize lead in drinking water. The strategy includes lead service pipe replacement, a faucet filter program, water testing for residents and, most recently, a corrosion control program.

As a homeowner, there are three things you can do to reduce your exposure.

First, if you live in an older, pre-1950s home and are concerned about your water quality, you can have your water tested by the city for free to determine if you need to take action. For more information, please visit Toronto Water’s website.

Second, you can replace your lead service pipe. Homeowners are responsible for the section of the pipe that runs from their home to the property line. The city is responsible for the section of the pipe that runs from the property line to the city’s watermain. You can see a diagram here.

If you replace your side of the service pipe, the city will replace its side on a priority basis. For more information on this program, please click here.

Finally, you can install an end-of-tap filter, which the Medical Officer of Health told me cuts out 95 per cent of any lead in water.

For the most up to date information as well as all of the details on what the city’s doing to combat the issue, please visit http://toronto.ca/leadpipes.

Additionally, Toronto Water staff will be on hand at my Environment Day (Saturday, May 31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at York Mills Collegiate) to address any questions and concerns about lead pipes and water quality.

York Ridge and Don Ridge stormwater management and road improvements

This summer the city will be reconstructing streets, installing storm sewers and gutter on York Ridge Road and Don Ridge Drive as part of a road and stormwater management improvement project on the following streets:

  • York Ridge Road from York Mills Road to Old Yonge Street
  • Don Ridge Drive from the west end to Old Yonge Street

As part of this project, the city will also be replacing its portion of any substandard water service to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of water and improve drinking water quality.

For more information about any aspect of the project, you can contact Manveer Ramburrun, the Project Engineer, at mrambur@toronto.ca or (416) 395-1112.

Hoggs Hollow Stormwater Management Update

Phases I and II of the city’s $24 million Hoggs Hollow road and stormwater management project are complete, and Phases III and IV are on schedule for completion in 2014.

The city recently awarded the contract for Phase III to Clearway, and construction will begin in early spring on the following streets:

  • Donwoods Drive from Knightswood Road to Donino Avenue;
  • Donwoods Grove;
  • Winton Road;
  • Plymbridge Road from the bridge to Donwoods Drive; and,
  • Donwoods Drive from Donino Avenue to Ivor Road.

The work involves storm sewer installation and road reconstruction. The water main on Winton Road will also be replaced. Phase IV is set to get underway in the second half of 2014.

For more information about any aspect of the project, you can contact Manveer Ramburrun, the Project Engineer, at mrambur@toronto.ca or (416) 395-1112.