The water colour of lakes and ponds in Ontario, especially the Lake Ontario watershed, is largely the result of chemicals used in the production of fertilizers.
But that is changing as more people move into the province.
As of August, there were more than 2.4 million people living in Ontario with health problems related to the chemicals used to make fertilizers, according to a government study.
About 80 per cent of those people live in Ontario.
About 70 per cent live in the Toronto area, with the rest in the GTA, according the Ontario Ministry of Health.
There is also a trend to make the water darker, which is more likely to lead to algae growth and other issues.
“There’s been a big change in the way that we use the water,” said Bruce Gough, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Guelph and former president of the Canadian Association of University Teachers.
“We’ve started to use it more in a chemical way.
We’ve been able to control the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, but we’re using it more for industrial processes.”
In fact, Gough said the Ontario government has decided to make it a priority to make sure all of its lakes have a certain amount of light and a certain number of nutrients in them.
“We’re not going to do it without some sort of oversight,” he said.
“So, if we have a problem with the water, we need to get to the root of the problem, and that’s what this study is trying to do.”
In the meantime, people with health issues in Ontario are finding ways to use the lakes in their own way.
In Toronto, people are making the lakes white by mixing fertilizers with their water and then adding it to their own drinking water.
In Kingston, the city is taking a more cautious approach to adding more nutrients to the lake.
“It’s a bit of a change of pace from what we’ve been doing,” said Ken McBride, who owns the Toronto’s famous Morningside Cafe.
“People are actually using the water more like a water treatment plant.”
Some are even using chemicals in the water to treat themselves, which has lead to some health concerns.
“I was doing some home water treatment with the tap and it came out green, which was kind of scary,” said Kelly Stoll, who has had a couple of problems with algae.
“I’m really worried that we’ll be looking at more of these issues, because there are a lot of people who have health problems, and there are also a lot who are concerned about their health.”
The government’s latest report says about 20 per cent to 25 per cent are now using the chemical-based fertilizers to treat their own water, which could be causing a higher risk of some types of algae growth.
Some are also using them to wash their own bodies, which also has raised concern about potential health issues.
While some experts are cautious, others are not.
“People should do what they can to take the extra precautions and use less fertilizers,” said Dr. Michael O’Neil, the former president and CEO of the Ontario Science Council, who now works for the Ontario Medical Association.
“But I also think it’s important that we understand what the health effects are of these chemicals.”
In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, O’Neill said there are no definitive answers to what causes some of the health problems in Ontario and there is still a lot more work to do.
“The problem is that we have very little data on what causes these health issues,” he added.
“What we do know is that there are more and more people with some of these health problems.”