2018 Toronto Harbour Monitoring Report RELEASE

Report shows Inner Harbour needs city action on water testing, sewage cleanup

Charity group Swim Drink Fish releases 5 recommendations to help the City of Toronto to take ownership of water pollution problems associated with sewage spills

TORONTO -- Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a Swim Drink Fish Initiative, is releasing findings from its Toronto Harbour Monitoring Program. After testing water quality for four months, the charity found that a disturbing amount of sewage ends up in Toronto’s Inner Harbour from combined sewer outfalls. During the summer of 2018, staff and volunteers documented a consistent pattern of high levels of E. coli (an indicator bacteria of sewage) and sewage debris in several locations in the Toronto Harbour.

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper (LOW) is an initiative of Swim Drink Fish, a registered charity working towards swimmable, drinkable, and fishable water for everyone. Swim Drink Fish is also the organization that helped to unveil the Gord Edgar Downie swimming pier in Kingston earlier this year.


More people are using the water than ever before. Torontonians need their lake to be swimmable, drinkable, fishable - not just in a few special places but across the entire waterfront. Our recommendations are intended to help the City of Toronto restore the Harbour and protect public health.”

– Mark Mattson, President and Waterkeeper, Swim Drink Fish

Quick Facts

  • During the hours that staff and volunteers were collecting samples, 2579 individuals were recorded using those sites. More than half (1377) of these individuals were children attending summer water recreation camps. E. coli levels at those sites exceeded the city water quality guideline by 241 times on several occasions.

  • Sites sampled by Swim Drink Fish failed 61% of the time.

  • Sites sampled by volunteer monitoring groups in the Outer Harbour and Humber Bay West failed 21% of the time.

  • The nine sites sampled at the 100 E. coli / 100 mL standard failed 44% of the time, with one specific site failing 100% of the time.

  • Over 900+ items of sewage debris - “floatables” were also documented (e.g., condoms, tampons, tampon applicators, feminine pads, wet wipes and more). Swim Drink Fish also documented 36 syringes floating in the water near combined sewer outfalls.

  • Combined sewer outfalls release a mix of stormwater and untreated sanitary sewage into the lake.

  • In 2017 the the sites sampled in the Inner Harbour fared better than in 2018. Last year, sites met water quality guidelines 57% of the time. This year, those same sites met water quality guidelines just 39% of the time.



Matt Brown
Communications Manager
Swim Drink Fish
Mobile: 416-671-3910
Office: 416-861-1237 ext 6288

Matt Brown