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.

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.

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!