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How Serious Is Water Pollution in Canada?

Water pollution is a growing global concern, and Canadian water sources are no exception. Despite significant progress over the last 20 years, there is still much work to be done to solve the pollution issues in Canada.

Pollution from Oil Sands

Alberta’s oil sands have a large carbon footprint and are a major cause of pollution in Canada. Climate pollution caused by the tar sands oil is expected to hit 104 MtC02 in the next five years, which is double the emissions of Norway. Increased levels of acid rain from the oil sands will lead to water contamination and negatively affect the ecosystem in Canada’s rivers and lakes.

Pollution of the Great Lakes

Wastewater, development, air pollution, and pesticide runoff are among the sources of pollution in the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. More than 35 million people in the United States and Canada depend on the Great Lakes for their water. In addition to the present-day pollutants, the lakes are still feeling the effects of early settlement and industry in the region. For example, decades of industrial waste in the area introduced toxic chemicals such as DDT, PCBs and mercury into the lakes’ ecosystem. Since these chemicals persist in the environment by being passed down through the food chain, they may still be present decades after the original cause of contamination, making them difficult to eliminate.

Pollution in and around the lakes is also a threat to economic activity such as shipping, transport, tourism and recreation. Climate change has already contributed to low water levels that have affected shipping routes and shortened the recreational boating season.

Soil Pollution from Chemicals

Although it is not yet a major problem in Canada, soil pollution is caused by pesticides, acid rain, oil and chemical spills, and road salt. Oil refineries are the main source of soil contamination and up to 12% of the soil in Alberta’s forests contain high levels of acid. De-icing the roads is a necessity during Canadian winters, but the sodium chloride present in road salt can contaminant the soil from runoff. This form of pollution may increase chloride levels to between 100 and up to as much as 4,000 times, which can have harmful effects on plant life.

Health Effects of Water Pollution

Polluted water can contain pesticides, sewage, bacteria and chemicals, which can cause various health issues.

  • Long-term exposure can have adverse effects on the nervous system.
  • Fecal waste. Bacteria found in fecal matter, such as E.coli, can cause intestinal disease and illness. The Walkerton outbreak was caused by E.coli getting into the water supply via farm runoff.
  • Certain pesticides that may get in the water supply are carcinogenic and can damage the nervous system.
  • Although this is widely used to disinfect water, ingesting too much chlorine can cause stomach discomfort. By-products created from chlorine reacting with organic matter, such as soil, may increase cancer risk.

Taking precautions to ensure your family receives the cleanest possible water at home is the first step to staying healthy. Installing a whole house water filtration system will remove harmful additives such as chlorine from your drinking water as well as your shower.

Learn more about chlorine in your drinking water here.


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Filter Butler offers whole Home Filters, Whole home Salt Free Softeners, and other drinking water solutions for residential and commercial customers.
Categories: Water