The Taylor Massey Project

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Moving Toward Remediation
The Taylor Massey Project

Institutional commitment to protect area water resources goes back centuries, to at least the cholera epidemics of the early 1800s. Modern efforts could be said to have started with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and the formation of the Canada-US International Joint Commission, with a specific focus on the Great Lakes.

Unfortunately, ill-informed government and social practices for most of the twentieth century, particularly though the 1950s, allowed the continued draining of wetlands and the hardening of watercourses while we doubled and re-doubled the release of pollutants into our environment.

While the 60s were dominated by broad social issues revolving around the Vietnam war and both racial and sexual equality, the foundations of environmentalism were laid during this decade in two benchmark publications. The first, in 1962, was Rachael Carson's Silent Spring , which alerted the public to the dangers of DDT and other pesticides. The second, toward the end of the decade, consisted of images of our small, blue planet floating in space: resilient and beautiful, but self-contained and fragile.

By the 1970s, following the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment and the publication that same year of The Limits to Growth by the Club of Rome, the environmental management of the planet was established as a legitimate and pressing scientific and social priority.

Locally, following the eutrophication of Lake Erie and the death of its fishery around 1970, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (1978) contributed the term "ecosystem integrity" to the world, and called for "the restoration and maintenance of the chemical, biological, and physical properties of the Great Lakes".

We're still working on it, spurred on the Love Canal, Elmira, and Walkerton tragedies, and with renewed realizations about the values of local forests, wetlands, and cornerstone natural features such as the Oak Ridges Moraine.

In the meantime, over-arching terms such as natural heritage protection, source protection planning, watershed management, pollution prevention, wet weather flow master planning, and green infrastructure are becoming increasingly understood by society and finding financial support in the political arena. We have learned, hopefully, that protecting the environment protects human health, and the human spirit.

As of 2004, Taylor Massey Creek stands to be the beneficiary of several specific programs developed to help inventory, protect, and improve the Creek and its watershed, including:

  • The availability of data collected in a Natural Heritage Inventory produced by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority;

  • The City of Toronto's new Sewer-Use Bylaw, designed to regulate the effluent emitted to sanitary sewers and to require that large organizations have pollution prevention plans in place for both their sanitary and stormwater effluent;

  • The City's new Pesticide Bylaw, to be phased in aftre the end of 2005, and to be accompanied by increased publicity for yard naturalization, water conservation, and private-property tree plantings, as well as through the standardize of City-wide Ravine and Tree Bylaws; and, most importantly,

  • The implementation of the City's Wet Weather Flow Master Plan, a 25-year, $1B plan in which Taylor Massey will be the key focus from 2008-2012, with somewhere between $60 -100,000,000 to be allocated to the Taylor Massey Creek watershed. Elements of this plan include:

    • The development of a Taylor Massey Creek sub-watershed study, called for in 1992 in Forty Steps to a New Don, which should be delivered by 2005 or 2006;

    • Extensive infrastructure expenditures to eliminate combined sewer overflows of raw sewage into the Creek as well as to reduce the total flow of stormwater to the Creek (2008-2012);

    • Guaranteed minimum expenditures for "green infrastructure" watershed improvements, thanks in part to a motion suggested by the TMP and passed by the City of Toronto. Green infrastructure improvements include channel form naturalization, the elimination of fish barriers, stream-edge plantings, and the possible creating of new stormwater or habitat ponds;

    • Increased enforcement activities to protect the Creek, especially from illegal encroachments, outdoor storage, and spills; and

    • Outreach to local residents to disconnect downspouts leading to the Creek, as well as to engage them in local tree-planting and other environmental efforts.

In short, the TMP has matured at just the right time, and offers residents of the watershed the chance to be involved in and see the restoration of a degraded urban stream right before our eyes!