February 28, 2005

Environmental Commissioner's awards honour MOE staff for monitoring program work

Information collected by the province's environmental monitoring systems is vitally important to the public as well as to the government, Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) said recently as he presented the 2004 ECO Recognition Awards to 146 Ministry of Environment (MOE) staff members. The awards acknowledge the staffers' work on the MOE's ambient environmental monitoring networks which collect, analyze and report data on the province's air, water and ecosystems.

"Ecological monitoring programs demonstrate their true value only when data are collected and analyzed over the long run," said Miller, noting that the recipients "have had the foresight and vision to protect and maintain these programs over a number of years in spite of shifting government priorities."

A new addition in the last few years has been the MOE's establishment of the Ontario benthos biomonitoring network, which assesses the condition of Ontario's aquatic ecosystems. The network collects data, for example, on which species of insects is present in sediment layers; this information can give a good indication of water quality and the levels of contaminants such as mercury or lead.

Other long-standing programs monitor contaminants in sport fish, assess the nutrient status of 500 inland lakes, and provide comprehensive monitoring of the Great Lakes on a lake-by-lake basis over time. The data collected from these networks are then used to establish baselines and trends, identify sources of contamination, and support government decisions on the environment. In a number of cases, the data are also summarized and published on a regular basis as important public reports, such as the "Air Quality in Ontario" series or the "Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish."

"It's important that MOE staff understand the complexity of these ecosystems and it's essential that they base their understanding on reliable monitoring networks. Without such programs, we cannot accurately measure whether we are making progress in protecting the environment," Miller stated.

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