Toronto – The vast majority of residents surveyed (93%) at the recent Celebration of Lake Simcoe event in Innisfil said they were aware of pollution problems facing Lake Simcoe. In addition, most people surveyed correctly identified the top reasons for the pollution of Lake Simcoe, mentioning scientifically proven causes such as phosphorus pollution resulting from development, erosion, farming, sewage and septic systems. This is a change from the general perception 10 years ago that farming, and the Holland Marsh in particular, was responsible for the lake’s problems.
Nine per cent (9%) of the responses put invasive species, such as zebra mussels as top causes; another 9% attributed problems to sewage; and 29% identified phosphorus as the main problem.
“The results suggest that all the education efforts around pollution problems facing Lake Simcoe are really starting to pay off,” said Claire Malcolmson Campaign Lake Simcoe Advisor at Environmental Defence, and President of the Board of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “Informing residents is more than half the battle; now that they are armed with the knowledge about what is causing the lake’s problems, they can do something about it.”
The survey, created by the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, also asked people for their opinions on what local governments should do to protect the lake. Six local government activity options were offered based on things local governments are urged, but not required to do, under the provincial Lake Simcoe Protection Act and Plan. Most of the 129 respondents identified all of the options on the survey as “the most important” activities for their local government to save Lake Simcoe, which indicates strong support for improvements to municipal environmental practices.
Looking only at options chosen as the top priority, 95/129 chose: “Invest in the building and repair of stormwater management systems like stormwater ponds in cities and towns.” Second most popular (88/129) was: “Protect 40% of the municipality from development by labeling it as protected forest, wetland, or grassland.” The third most popular priority was: (82/129): “Update local building rules, so that new developments have a smaller environmental impact overall than they do today, by allowing the use of green building technologies, and water and energy-efficient systems.”
The Innisfil District Association’s members conducted the survey in the park. “Our volunteers were impressed by the interest of those approached and their willingness to participate in this survey to help assure the restoration of the Lake. We sincerely hope that the Innisfil Council will respect the priorities requested by the results of this survey,” said IDA Board member Don Avery.
Finally, participants at the Celebration of Lake Simcoe event were asked what they learned at the event about the lake and its challenges.
Seventy-nine per cent (79%) of respondents said they learned something new at the event about protecting the environment or the lake. Lessons about the threats of invasive species, and how to avoid spreading them, the importance of buffering shorelines and rivers with plants, as well as electricity conservation, all resonated well with the public. The most cited example of something attendants learned is that there are so many people and groups that care and are involved in protecting the lake. This is great news for the organizers of the Celebration of Lake Simcoe.
“We are off to a good start. The focus of this event is to educate residents, cottagers and day-trippers about the environmental needs of Lake Simcoe and its watershed, what is being done to help it, what still needs to be done and how everyone can help make a difference. In future years we will expand on this focus and look forward to more people becoming involved in helping our lake,” said event organizer Beverley Else.  
Unfortunately, 10/42 respondents said that they will not do anything differently based on what they learned at the event to protect the environment or the lake.
“This number reflects an apathy that gets us what we’ve got: a polluted lake. If people want this lake to just stay as clean as it is now, every one of the government activities listed in the survey needs to be implemented, every shoreline needs to be naturalized, and we all must use phosphate-free cleaners. Lip service and celebrations alone will absolutely not heal the lake,” said Malcolmson.
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For more information or to arrange an interview please call:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, 1-877-323-9521 x 232
Claire Malcolmson, Campaign Lake Simcoe Advisor at Environmental Defence, and President of the Board of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, 1-647-267-7572