Markham's Water – Ours to Protect
What is Source Water?
There are two types of fresh water sources: surface water and groundwater. These sources are raw, untreated water from rivers, lakes or underground aquifers. Surface water is always treated to ensure it is clean and safe for human consumption and use.
Why Protect Source Water?
Fresh water is essential to all aspects of our lives and it is important that we all take part in protecting our fresh water source. To ensure clean, reliable water for tomorrow, we need to start protecting it today.
It is more expensive to treat polluted and contaminated water than it is to protect it from contamination.
Polluting our source water negatively impacts our environment, aquatic life, plants and other wildlife.
Markham’s Source Water
Our drinking water source comes from Lake Ontario which is fed by rivers, streams and storm water ponds. Lake Ontario is part of Canada’s Great Lakes watershed, which is the largest fresh water system on Earth. Approximately 9 million people in Ontario and New York State rely on Lake Ontario for their drinking water. After years of abuse, Lake Ontario is under stress.
It is very important to protect all water sources within our communities from pollution in order to protect our drinking water source and the natural environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 783 million people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. In Markham, we are fortunate to enjoy clean drinking water straight from the tap.
Click on the following images below to learn how you can help.
Where Markham Water Goes...
|Water From Outside Your Home
||Water From Inside Your Home
||Don't Flush This Stuff
You Need to Know the Difference
Storm sewers and sanitary sewers are not the same!
Storm Sewer System
Storm sewers are the grates you see along the streets and are designed to collect rain water and snow melt only – nothing else! This system is in place to prevent flooding in our streets and to re-direct the water to a water source. Water that enters the storm sewer system flows directly into our ponds, streams, rivers and lakes without being treated.
Sanitary Sewer System
Sanitary sewers are in place to remove dirty water used in our homes, schools and businesses. This water flows to a treatment facility in Pickering where it is cleaned and returned to Lake Ontario. This system is designed for dirty water, human waste and toilet paper – nothing else!
Water from Outside Your Home...
Storm sewers are designed to remove rainwater and melted snow from our streets to provide drainage and prevent flooding. All water entering storm sewers goes directly into streams, rivers, or ponds without being treated and eventually into Lake Ontario – our drinking water source. The water that runs off your property also drains into storm sewers and may end up collecting garbage, chemicals, and motor oil that will pollute the environment, our drinking water source and pose adverse health effects to wildlife.
Please Remember Storm sewers and sanitary sewers are part of two very different systems. Water entering storm sewers do not get treated.
Never pour hazardous materials or any chemicals into storm drains because they will end up in Lake Ontario – our drinking water source.
Use Your Local Carwash – Not your Driveway!
Washing your car with a hose can use up to 440 litres of water. All that soapy water flows down your driveway into the storm sewer and is carried untreated into nearby creeks, rivers and lakes. Commercial car may use about 50% less water. More importantly, the wastewater is treated. If you want to wash your car at home, use a bucket and sponge to save water and reduce runoff. Park your vehicle on gravel, or grass. If you must use soap, pick one that is biodegradable, and pour the remaining soapy water down a drain in your home when you are done.
Use a Broom, Not a Hose!
When cleaning your driveway, please use a broom and dustpan to collect dirt and debris. Washing down your driveway will allow garbage and dirt to enter our storm sewers, polluting our environment. Never wash down your driveway if you it has motor oil or chemicals on it because this will be carried with the water into our storm sewers. This will pollute our environment, our drinking water source and harm wildlife and aquatic animals.
Remove Oil Stains without Harming the Environment
Use these tips to help get rid of stubborn oil stains on your driveway without harming the environment. Remember, when you wash down oils and harmful chemicals off your driveway this contaminated water will enter the storm sewers and back out into Lake Ontario without being treated.
- Be proactive! Make sure you properly maintain your vehicle and check for leaks. If you spot a leak, get it fixed right away.
- Use a microbial cleaner that uses enzymes to consume the oil without producing any toxic residue. Cool fact - these products are used to resolve oil spills in the ocean.
- Use a sponge or cloth to soak up excess oil and then cover the stain with kitty litter or sawdust. Rub the material into the stain and leave it to soak up overnight. Sweep up the material the next day and use a bucket of water to rinse off the area.
- Do Not use a pressure washer to remove stains as this is may push the stain deeper into the pavement and use a lot of water. Do Use a bucket and sponge to pre-treat the area before applying any further cleaning methods.
- After pre-treatment, apply baking soda to the stained area and let it sit for 15 minutes and then pour some hot water on it and scrub vigorously with a stiff brush. Rinse the area with some more hot water.
- Please note that this method may take more than one treatment and you might have to repeat the process a few times depending on the magnitude of the stain.
Pool chemicals can kill fish and harm our natural environment! When pool water is drained into our storm sewers, it enters our waterways untreated. Follow these tips to protect streams and rivers from the impacts of pool chemicals.
- Do not add chemicals for 2 weeks prior to draining your pool, spa or hot tub.
- Drain across your lawn avoiding the storm sewer.
- Never drain chlorinated water directly into the storm sewer - It is harmful to aquatic creatures.
- Never drain on a rainy day.
Also note that all unused or expired pool chemicals are considered Household Hazardous Waste and should be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Recycling Depot.
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Water From Inside Your Home
Wastewater from inside your home (toilets, sinks, and showers) flows into the sanitary sewer system. Wastewater then flows through large regional sewers to a treatment plant in Pickering where it is cleaned and released back into Lake Ontario.
Because all wastewater from inside your home is eventually returned to Lake Ontario, it is very important that hazardous materials are never poured into the toilet or drains. Take these materials to the Hazardous Waste Depot (HHW) for proper disposal.
Don’t Strain the Drain!
Part of protecting our water resources is keeping sewer systems in good condition. What goes down the drain can cause damage to pipes that carry our wastewater to the treatment plant in Pickering. Please dispose of these items in the following manner:
Household Hazardous Waste
Take these items to the HHW Depot located at 300 Rodick Road
Paints, chemicals, and other hazardous products should NEVER go down the drain. Drop these items off at the Household Hazardous Waste Depot for safe disposal.
Using chemical products to clear clogged drains may seem convenient, but they contain toxic substances. Renting or purchasing a plumber’s snake (available at many hardware stores) is an effective and environmentally friendly way to clear your pipes.
Prescription Drugs, Over-the-Counter Medications and Supplements
Take these items to a pharmacy or the HHW Depot
When you flush or pour pharmaceuticals down your household toilets or drains they will end up at the wastewater treatment facility. The pharmaceuticals negatively impact the treatment process and these facilities aren’t designed to remove all traces of these products.
√ All unused pharmaceuticals should be taken back to a pharmacy or Markham’s HHW Depot for safe disposal.
× When you dispose of medication in a sink or toilet they may impact our water source (Lake Ontario) and harm the environment and aquatic life.
Sinks and toilets are not trash cans!
When you put cooking oil, baby wipes and chemical waste down your household drains you can block and corrode your home’s plumbing system resulting in costly repairs for both the homeowner and the City.
Have you noticed that your facial scrub, toothpaste or body wash has tiny coloured beads in them? These tiny beads are called “microbeads” and are bits of plastic found in many personal care products. Many of these beads are so small that they flow through wastewater treatment plant screens and into Lake Ontario. This pollutes our environment and harms aquatic life and other wildlife.
Products containing microbeads aren’t always clearly labelled. Refrain from buying personal care products with the ingredients: nylon, polyethylene/polyethene (PE), polypropylene/polypropene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).
If you’re looking for an exfoliant, the best choice is to use products with natural substances such as ground-up fruit pits or sea salt.
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Don't Flush This Stuff
Fats, oils and grease (FOG)
Small amounts go in the green bin, large amounts take to the HHW
Examples of these substances include: cooking oil, salad dressings, butter, condiments, gravy and sauces. These substances stick to the inner surface of the sewer pipes, harden over time and can cause a sewage backup into your home or on your street.
√ Absorb small amounts of FOG with paper towel and place it in your green bin. If you cook with oils throughout the week have a tin can or heat durable container and pour your oil into it throughout the week. On your collection day, use a spoon to scoop out the FOG into the green bin. For larger quantities over 1.0L, pour into a container and take it to Markham’s HHW or the Elgin Mills Community Environmental Centre.
× Running hot water does not dissolve FOG. It will still solidify and clog pipes.
Pre-moistened Wipes (i.e. Baby wipes)
All wet and pre-moistened wipes go into the garbage
Pre-moistened wipes such as baby wipes and cleansing cloths are often marketed and labelled as being “flushable”, but they are NOT FLUSHABLE and NOT SAFE for your pipes and Markham’s sewer system.
√ All pre-moistened wipes should be thrown into the garbage. The best environmental choice is to use toilet paper or tissue.
× Pre-moistened wipes are engineered fabrics made from synthetic polymers and are very thick and durable. When flushed, these products do not break down like toilet paper and cause sewer blockages.
All food scraps go into your green bin
All food scraps go in your Green Bin or your backyard composter. Before placing dishes into your dishwasher, you should always scrape food into the green bin instead of rinsing the food down the sink.