Lake Nipissing is the centrepiece of the area lakes and all of them are used as key points in the region’s tourism strategy. Tourism is a significant contributor to the North Bay economy with around 1,300 businesses in the industry throughout the region. The number one attraction listed in the North Bay Community Profile is fishing.
Unfortunately, most of our area lakes are facing increasing occurrences of Blue Green Algae Blooms. When the toxic bloom forms, (usually in late summer), the Ministry of the Environment recommends to avoid using the water and to not eat the fish.
There have been many factors affecting tourism in the region over the past decade, but it seems reasonable to assume those visitors negatively affected by the blooms would not have helped grow the industry. Protecting the quality of lake water should be one of the top priorities for our area, and the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority (NBMCA) has identified the amount of phosphorus they contain as an issue.
This past summer, several North Bay beaches were impacted by algae blooms even though the city’s water treatment plant has been removing phosphorus from sewage since 1984. While there have been many bypass events due to high water since, the municipality says partial treatment was done before releasing the water into Lake Nipissing. Last spring, Memorial Drive was blocked off to run auxillary hoses so fully treated waste water could be pumped out of the tanks quickly to avoid overflow of partially treated water.
The former Environment Commissioner, Diane Saxe, pointed out in her Back to Basics report, the combined wastewater and stormwater systems of West Nipissing represent an unacceptable level of pollution during highwater events. She also mistakenly included Callander in that group, but the municipality has stated they do not have a combined wastewater and stormwater system.
They do have a report however, that shows their sewage system is leaking and in desperate need of repairs, the funding for which, Mayor Hec Lavigne has been patiently waiting for.
The provincial government has just announced a joint federal/provincial program to provide funding designed to rehabilitate critical water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure and drive local economic growth. The Municipality of Callander should apply to repair their leaky system and West Nipissing should apply to upgrade their sewage system.
Our local MPP has shown himself to be particularly adept at focusing government financial assistance in this riding and hopefully the tourism industry players can highlight the economic impact of deteriorating water quality so resources from this program can be directed toward solutions.
(Column by Phil Koning in November 2019 edition of A Bit of the Bay Magazine)