Soil run-off creating problems for Sudbury lakes, scientist says

A Sudbury scientist says there should be tighter controls on construction around the city's lakes.

Dr. John Gunn says soil is a big source of nutrients for weed and algae

A Sudbury scientist is calling for more oversight on lakefront construction, as the nutrients from the soil eroding from the work sites can seep into local water bodies, feeding algae and weed growth. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)
Sudbury scientist John Gunn is the Director of the Living with Lakes Centre. He says heavy rainfalls coupled with construction on lakefronts has washed silt into the lakes. He explained to the CBC's Kate Rutherford why this is a problem for area lakes.

A Sudbury scientist says there should be tighter controls on construction around the city's lakes.

Dr. John Gunn says this year's heavy rains washed silt from building sites into the water, and the nutrients from soil feed blue-green algae and weed growth.

Gunn is calling for more oversight.

“There's a lot of companies that don't follow the guidelines and also, [there’s] not enough people on city staff to enforce them all,” he said.

“So we don't have the same culture of protecting the lakes — when we get to the stage of constructing near them — as we should.”

But city staff members say regulations are stricter — and more strongly enforced — than ever.

Sudbury’s chief building official, Guido Mazza, said building inspectors are part of a bigger network that enforces guidelines and said zoning is now rigidly regulated.

The city’s acting director of planning services, Mark Simeoni, said lakefront home construction shouldn't be a major problem, as permits for lakefront homes are only four per cent of total building permits.

Simeoni said his department has even enlisted homeowners themselves to help protect water quality.

“We have helped develop area lake committees so people can work in the context of their own lake.”

But Gunn said more attention needs to be paid to the growing problem of algae and weed growth in lakes, and what's causing it.

“Soil is a big source of nutrients and we're all worried about blue-green algae and weed growth in lakes and much of the nutrient that brings about those changes comes from eroded soils,” he said.

Shoreline construction is often behind silt contamination, Gunn added.


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