City conservation authorities are investigating and a cleanup is underway after a community group sounded the alarm about waste from an industrial lot spilling into the East Don River Trail system.
The group, called "Don't Mess with the Don," was formed by trail users to address the dumping of waste in the Don Valley. Members were exploring an area of the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area hidden away from more frequently used trails, and found it polluted with industrial debris.
The area, part of a reclaimed slope of green space located southeast of Lawrence Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway, was littered with sand, concrete and other building materials from a building supply company that borders the valley.
The group sprang into action and reported the spill to the city and Coun. Brad Bradford, who represents the area on city council, asking them to look into fines and restoration.
"We need to investigate what took place here," Bradford told CBC Toronto.
"We're not joking around, there's not going to be a soft approach to this," he said.
Cleanup of illegal dumping underway
Irene Vandartop, one of the co-founders of the community group, says many trees have died and the soil has eroded as a result of the spillage in the conservation area, which is part of the extensive East Don River Trail system on the east side of the Don Valley Parkway and the Don River.
"What it really shows me is that people don't know about the consequences of this kind of behaviour and this kind of impact on the valley," she said.
The area is home to deer, coyotes, endangered snakes, as well as myriad plant species. It also has eight bike trails and a pond. But Vandartop says the green space is located in an area outside the normal trails away from where most people go and where illegal dumping and garbage spills can go unnoticed.
Bradford agrees, and says he contacted city enforcement services and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to investigate what took place, who is responsible, and what steps are necessary to ensure it doesn't happen again.
On Thursday, Bradford said he sent conservation authorities to talk to the company responsible for dumping the waste into the conservation area, something he said could warrant "very, very hefty" fines.
The company was given 30 days to remove the waste and on Friday, crews were cleaning the area up.
Not an isolated incident
Floyd Ruskin, a member of Don't Mess with the Don, says the pollution in the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area is not an isolated incident, as high-rise and industrial buildings back onto the ravines.
"Toronto is blessed with this wonderful urban green space, it's the envy of the world," he said. But he noted just north of the conservation area is a ravine filled with single-use plastics and other ecologically damaging items.
"It's poor property management practices," he said.
As Ruskin awaits the outcome of the investigation into the spill in the Charles Sauriol Conservation Area, he says the conservation group will be there to keep an eye on it.
"We're stewards of the valley; we see it, we'll take care of it," he said.
Ruskin says his group's members shouldn't be responsible for reporting destruction to green space, but he feels as though it is their duty.
"This generation needs to be responsible for the future."