By: John Slykhuis
Groups applauded Environment Minister John Gerretsen’s launch of a strategy to protect Lake Simcoe, including a new regulation to cap phosphorus emissions from sewage treatment plants, pending adoption of the proposed Lake Simcoe Protection Act.
“This is a positive first step in the effort to save the Lake. It’s now possible to at least imagine Lake Simcoe returning to its natural state,” said Dr. Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.
“This regulation is not a substitute for the strongest possible Lake Simcoe Protection Act, but needs to be seen as a cornerstone for such an effort.”
At the Lake Simcoe Summit in Barrie last July, Premier Dalton McGuinty committed to cleaning up the lake and to “raise the bar” on sewage treatment standards and set strict limits on other pollutants.  
“It’s amazing. They listened and once they recognized how great the problem is, they acted rather than doing another study,” Ladies of the Lake co-founder Jane Meredith said. “They laid out a plan to deliver on Premier McGuinty’s promise to the Lake in July and they also took some immediate steps.”
It was 30 years ago when government realized the impact humans had on Lake Simcoe, she added.
“A Lake Simcoe Protection Act is the first serious commitment to helping us change our ways and make the lake, the rivers and the surrounding land a wonderful place for future generations.”
Annabel Slaight, also a Ladies of the Lake co-founder, applauded the proposed interim limits on phosphorus discharge for sewage treatment and storm water runoff facilities.
“To be serious about rescuing Lake Simcoe, you have to take a first step,” she said. “The average person might think this doesn’t sound like much, but it is a dramatic way to get all the 22 municipalities whose activities affect the lake, to re-examine their responsibilities to helping the lake.”
Accolades aren’t just local.
Natalie Helferty, director of conservation policy for Ontario Nature, agreed the move is the first step for cleaning up the province.
“The availability of phosphorus from sewage effluent affects every living organism in the food chain and it’s about time that we stop the damage to Lake Simcoe’s ecosystem,” she said.  
It is too early to tell what effect, if any, new regulations will have on the planned expansions of the Keswick and Sutton sewage treatment plants, Georgina’s director of planning Harold Lenters said.
“We’ve just received this information ourselves so we’re still digesting it. We’ve asked our solicitor to look at it and then we’re going to discuss it from there.”
There are a lot of questions around what’s indicated in the proposed regulations, he added.
Depending on what the answers are to those makes a huge difference. Until we get details, we don’t know what the impact is.