Water

Protecting Lake Superior


Water is Life

Lake Superior, also known as Gitchi Gami, and Lac Supérieur, is the largest freshwater lake in the world. This living waterscape is the source of drinking water not only for our City of Thunder Bay, but for thousands of other people living around the Lake, before it flows into all other Great Lakes downstream, where millions more rely on this life-giving freshwater. Lake Superior is home to hundreds of species. Lake Superior is arguably, one of the most precious places on Earth needing protection. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the governments of Canada and the United States have committed to protect and restore the waters of the Great Lakes. In 1987, this binational Agreement began requiring the development of Lakewide Action and Management Plans (otherwise known as LaMPs) for all 5 Great Lakes, including Lake Superior.

 

 

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What Are LaMP's?

LaMPs are plans for cooperatively restoring and protecting the ecosystem of a Great Lake, to "restore and maintain the biological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin ecosystem. The first Lake Superior LaMP was developed in 1991. 


EcoSuperior's Involvement

In 2007, EcoSuperior first signed a 3-year agreement (with what was then the Ministry of the Environment) to carry out the coordination, support, and implementation of priorities identified by the Chemical Committee Work Plan contained in the Lakewide Management Plan for Lake Superior.

In 2010, EcoSuperior signed a new grant funding agreement for activities, programs, and actions to support the priorities laid out in the Lake Superior LaMP. Ever since, EcoSuperior continues to work with the community, partners, and others to support the priorities identified in the Lake Superior LaMP, through annual funding support from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).


With support from the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP), our team continues to deliver a wide range of activities in NWO to help achieve LaMP objectives.

 

Some of our many activities include:

  • Climate Change Education and Actions
  • Stormwater Management (Rain garden installations & education)
  • School Presentations & Community Outreach
  • Invasive Species Monitoring
  • Pollution Prevention & Plastic Reduction
  • Cigarette Litter Prevention & Recycling
  • Native Fish Surveys
  • Open Burning Education
  • Hosting 'Big Lake Reflections' (A celebration of our relationship with Lake Superior through the arts)
  • & Other Stewardship Initiatives for Freshwater Protection

 

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"If there is any magic on this planet', it is contained in water"

Lauren Eiseley

Stormwater Management

Why Does EcoSuperior Have a Storm Drain Education Program?

Our Keep it Superior Storm Drain Education Program is designed to educate the public about the impacts of pollution entering urban storm drains! In our community, most of the water that runs off our streets and sidewalks goes into a storm drain, which eventually enters directly into our local rivers, streams and lakes. This run-off is often contaminated with:

  • Micro-plastics
  • Litter waste
  • Chemical pollutants
  • Salts & oils
  • Pet waste

This storm drain pollution not only harms the health of natural resources, fish, and wildlife, but our own! This happens through a process called bioaccumulation, where they accumulate in the food chain, and we eventually consume them through food or water.


Canada & Waste

Did you know that Canadian households generate more than 60,000 tonnes of hazardous waste every year? Specifically, items such as toxic single-use plastics, old car batteries, lighter fluid, turpentine, paint, gasoline, used motor oil, antifreeze, pool chemicals, and pesticides are often used, and then disposed of improperly, eventually harming our aquatic ecosystems. Other pollutants that commonly end up in the water system include:

  • Pet waste
  • Sidewalk/driveway salt
  • Soap and fertilizer
  • Single-use plastics

In high concentrations, these materials can have a highly negative impact on our aquatic ecosystems, which we all depend on for survival.

 

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Where Does This Water Pollution Come From?

Water pollution stems from several different sources, including recreational, residential, industrial, and agricultural origins.  Since approximately 70% of all city lands are paved, only half of the precipitation that falls touches the soil. The other half, however, picks up the thousands of pounds of debris, waste, and chemicals along their path of flow. Unfortunately, these items eventually find their way into a storm drain system- causing water pollution.

How You Can Help

Want to help protect our local water quality from the impacts of contaminated runoff? Follow these quick & easy tips!
  1. Avoid pouring toxic items down your drain at home or municipal storm drain
  2. Install a rain barrel under your downspout to conserve & reduce water run-off
  3. Buy low-waste, plastic-free items to divert toxic single-use plastics from entering our ecosystems
  4. Pick up plastic waste and microplastic ‘nurdles’ when you see them
  5. Add a rain garden to your at-home landscape to filter precipitation
  6. Add more permeable surfaces in your yard to soak up the water, like gardens, lawns, and shrubs
  7. Pick up pet waste regularly
  8. Choose a commercial car wash over washing in your driveway! Commercial car wash water goes through the sewer system and is treated before it is discharged back into the ecosystem
  9. Maintain your vehicle and fix leaks promptly
  10. Avoid using salt or chemical ice-melters

 

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Want to Take Even More Action?

ADOPT A CITY STORM DRAIN

Adopting a Storm Drain in your neighbourhood can not only help keep our aquatic ecosystems clear of leaves, trash, and other toxic debris- but protect your neighbourhood from excess stormwater flooding during storm seasons!


For more information on adopting a storm drain, please email ashley@ecosuperior.org or call 807-624-2658. This program is funded in part by the City of Thunder Bay and delivered by EcoSuperior.

The City of Thunder Bay Water Bar

city of thunder bay water bar

The City of Thunder Bay Water Bar was designed by the Environment Division to promote municipal water, as the preferred drinking water source at outdoor events in our community.

Our team at EcoSuperior coordinates the promotion, staffing and placement of the Water Bar at your event. There are two Water Bar units available (*free of charge*!) to a limited number of events each year. According to Provincial Drinking Water Regulations, the Water Bar must be connected and disinfected by certified personnel at each event.

A special event will be considered on a "first come, first serve" basis, and must meet the following conditions for the inclusion of the City of Thunder Bay Water Bar.

 

Conditions

  • A minimum of three weeks notice is required to reserve a unit and an accessible outdoor water connection must be available
  • Due to the labour required for delivery, set-up, staffing, and removal- the use of the Water Bar is reserved for larger events with at least 500 participants
  • Due to staffing and weather, the event must be held between May 1st & September 30th
  • Water provided through the Water Bar is for drinking purposes only. Vendors are responsible for providing their own water or using a water supply source on-site for other event needs
  • No sale or distribution of bottled water by vendors or event organizers is permitted
  • The City of Thunder Bay Water Bar does not supply reusable water bottles or cups but reusable water bottles are available for sale to the public for $5.00 each
  • For multi-day events, overnight security for the water bar is the responsibility of organizers. EcoSuperior has the right to deny events the use of the water bar if there are concerns over possible damage

To request the Water Bar for your event, please call EcoSuperior at 807-624-2658, or email ashley@ecosuperior.org.

Depave Paradise

Since 2018, Ecosuperior has participated in Depave Paradise: a community project that engages local volunteers to remove unused pavement to create a neighbourhood green space. These green spaces may include community gardens, native plants, flowerbeds, or a combination of such!

In 2008, the program originated in Portland, Oregon, to address the rapidly increasing area of impervious surfaces within urban centers. This project was then adopted in Canada in 2012 by Green Communities Canada (GCC), who partners with local non-profits organizations to provide guidance and support throughout their Depave journey. Fortunately, Ecosuperior is one of the few selected non-profits that can host a Depave Paradise event in Thunder Bay.

 

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How It Works

The Depave Paradise event is coordinated by both our team and a willing site host, which has an unused space with pavement present. EcoSuperior’s goal is to create a workforce of volunteers to help tear up the pavement and create a beautiful green space for our community to enjoy. In-kind contributions and donations are accepted to help cover some of the costs of materials to complete the project. Common host sites for Depave events have been schools, churches, and local businesses. Ecosuperior wants to find suitable sites in Thunder Bay to complete Depave Paradise events to reduce urban runoff and contribute to a greener community.  

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If you or someone you know has the Depave Paradise site in mind, please contact ashley@ecosuperior.org or call (807) 624 2658.  

 

Rain Gardens

 

rain garden installed in a backyard

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens are landscaped features that temporarily capture and filter stormwater (rain & melted snow) that runs off of building rooftops, driveways, patios, or other hard surfaces like a parking lot. 
A rain garden consists of a shallow, bowl-shaped depression formed along the natural slope of a landscape, generally composed of loose and deep soil, native perennial shrubs, grasses, and flowers. These features mimic natural systems, helping to soak up and clean contaminated runoff before it enters the nearest waterway. Rain gardens come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made to complement your residential landscape.

 

Why build a rain garden?

Rain gardens not only beautify your property, they also have the added function of improving residential drainage and protecting urban waterways. Rain gardens can help:

  • Filter and prevent pollutants from entering municipal storm drains, which empty into local streams and rivers that drain to Lake Superior;
  • Reduce the potential for localized flooding and drainage issues;
  • Create habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects;
  • Control up to 100% of runoff* from an average rainfall (based upon design)
    rain garden diagram

     

    What is Stormwater Runoff?

    Simply put, stormwater runoff is the water that runs off the land, or another hard surface, during a heavy rainfall or snowmelt event rather than soaking into the ground where it falls. 


    Why Is This a Problem?

    After heavy rainfall or snowmelt in an urban setting, stormwater flows along hard surfaces like sidewalks, driveways and streets, looking for somewhere to settle. Common pollutants including lawn fertilizers, engine oil, pet waste, cigarette butts, plastics and other litter are picked up and mixed into the runoff along the way. This contaminated stormwater eventually flows into a nearby storm drain.

    Stormwater is generally not cleaned or treated before it enters a storm drain, and these drains discharge into the nearest waterway, like McVicar Creek, the McIntyre River, Neebing River or Current River, to name just a few in the Thunder Bay area. Because these rivers and streams empty into Lake Superior, any contaminated stormwater runoff has a direct impact on the natural environment, wildlife habitat, and our drinking water. 

    By installing a rain garden on your property, you can help capture runoff from your home rooftop, which reduces the volume of runoff flowing into municipal storm drains. 

     

    fresh rain garden

    Summarized Benefits:

     

    • Helps to control runoff during heavy rainfalls
    • Improves drainage at the lot level
    • Helps to reduce erosion in local rivers and streams
    • Provides habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and wildlife
    • Reduces mowing and associated maintenance
    • Recharges groundwater
    • Improves local water quality
    • Beautifies your residential property

     

     

     

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    Is a Rain Garden Right for You? 

    1. Rain gardens are ideally gravity-fed by a downspout connected to a rooftop or other hard surface.
    2. They drain completely in about 24 hours or less and,
    3. Are located at least 3 metres from a building foundation or nearby home.

    Learn more: