Joanne Dies educates, lobbies, and fights for environmental standards in Durham.

I met Joanne in my late-teen-years while attending a Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water (PACT POW) event at Rotary Park in 2013. As a young woman in the environmental field, Joanne’s work at the time was incredibly empowering. She is one of the few people I know that has the ability to capture the hearts of young men and women, like she did with mine, and demonstrate the importance of our work and the necessity for all of us to make environmentally minded choices. Having briefly followed her career in the field, Joanne was my inspiration to pursue my love for the environment in a political capacity and through activism.

Her relentless work on PACT POW, meeting with local MPP’s to bring attention to the algae issue, coupled with her earlier work presenting in front of the Pickering Council, encouraging them to become an MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) free zone, was a testament to me on the revolutionizing force of a passionate individual.

Since meeting Joanne at the PACT POW event in 2013, she has continued to lobby for environmental causes and serves as an inspiration to teens and young children, bringing environmental education to schools. She has worked with the PineRidge Arts Council on projects encouraging high school students to create art from artifacts found when picking up litter and has supported programs of a similar vein at Glengrove Public School. There, Joanne had students bring in household electronic garbage and together, built a robot from the waste which was later displayed at the Pickering Rec Centre in celebration of the Brock West Landfill site closure.

Her work as an educator on these projects was done with the intent of fostering social and behavioral transcendence, framing teens and elementary students as important vehicles of change. In focusing on students, Joanne’s work is likely to have a lasting impact as they reflect on how they can reduce waste by repurposing or re-creating materials in the future.

What makes Councillor Dies work in the environmental field unique, is her lesson that a person need not be a politician or scientist to make an environmental difference.

In the classroom and with her work on the Doors Open project in Ajax, where she helped gather a group of artists to repurpose and paint over old doors, she has demonstrated that creators, artists, and students have the potential to bring environmentalism into their work.

Most recently, Joanne, who is co-chair of PACT POW, recently turned her attention to bringing awareness to and lobbying against the discharge of phosphorus from the Duffins Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. On this issue, Joanne has presented at numerous public meetings to educate citizens on how the Plant is significantly contributing to phosphorus levels in the lake. This work represents one of many efforts made by Joanne to educate, lobby, and fight for an environmental standard in Durham that will lead to the betterment of the community and its ecologies.

Through her work rallying around globally significant projects like Stop the MAI, taking part in local activism with PACT POW, serving as an artist and creator with students, acting as a community educator, helping establish the St. Andrews Community Garden, and volunteering in Adopt-A-Road cleanups, Joanne has continually promoted the protection of the environment in many meaningful ways.

I am so incredibly grateful that she has shared with Ajax her concern for issues like water conservation and am even more grateful that she has taken leadership to ensure future use and enjoyment of our lakes and creeks.

In one sentence, what has been revealed through Joanne’s work is the radical impact a person can make when they are driven by their love for the community.

Kayla Ginter

Blue-green algae in Pickering’s Frenchman’s Bay area Residents warned to protect themselves, children and pets


Algae in Ajax

Large amounts of algae are growing along the Lake Ontario shoreline at Ajax Rotary Park. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland



Oct 12, 2018 Pickering News Advertiser

DURHAM — Durham health officials are warning residents to keep away from blue-green algae found in Pickering.

The Durham Region Health Department was advised by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) of the presence of a blue-green algal bloom in a small area of the southwest portion of Frenchman’s Bay, near Sunrise Avenue, in Pickering. Laboratory test results were received from the MECP on Oct. 11. A water quality advisory sign will be posted in the area to ensure that the public is aware of the presence of blue-green algae in the water.

“Blue-green algae are microscopic, plantlike organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams, and although often blue-green in colour, the algae can also be olive-green or red,” said Laura Freeland, manager of health protection with the health department. “Residents are advised to be cautious around blue-green algae, as some can produce toxins which may be harmful to humans who drink, fish or bathe in the water.”

People can protect themselves, their children and their pets from blue-green algal blooms by not swimming or playing in areas where water is discoloured or where foam, scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface are present.

For more information, visit, or call the Environmental Help Line at 905-723-3818 or 1-888-777-9613

Ajax casino will remain open

Oct 09, 2018 Ajax News Advertiser

Ajax Downs

Justin Picov from Picov Downs, Rod Phillips, Ajax MPP, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish and Bob Broadstock, president of the Quarter Racing Owners of Ontario were in Ajax Tuesday morning for an announcement about Ajax Downs remaining open. – Ron Pietroniro/ Metroland

Ajax Downs will be staying open, it was announced this morning.

The Ajax casino, which was slated to close after a new casino was approved in Pickering as part of Durham Live, will be allowed to retain 500 slot machines with a review to happen in 2026.

The casino currently has 800 slot machines.

Stay with for more on this story.

New signs connect cyclists with Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and GO stations in Ajax and Whitby

Cyclists can now easily find their way between the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the Ajax and Whitby GO stations. Executive Director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Marlaine Koehler says they’ve connected two of Ontario’s finest pieces of infrastructure.
“We’ve identified eleven stations and identified a route map and signed it so that cyclists getting off the GO train or arriving at a GO station will know right from the track, all the way to the trail, the safest route to take,” said Koehler. “On the track side, when you come on out [of the GO train], you see the signs, it gets you down to the exit that will lead you to the best road that gets you to the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. On the trail side, there’s signage that tells you when you need to leave the trail in order to take this path or that signed road back up to the GO station.”
Koehler is hopeful the signs will inspire commuters to take their bikes to the GO station.
Story from Durham Radio News

Blue-green algae found along Ajax waterfront

News Aug 15, 2018 by Keith Gilligan Ajax News Advertiser

Ajax algae

Joanne Dies and Paul Wealleans, members of Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water, walked along Paradise Beach Aug. 9. Blue-green algae has been found along the Ajax waterfront. The algae is potentially harmful to people or animals who swim in the water. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland

Algae in Ajax

Large amounts of algae are growing along the Lake Ontario shoreline at Ajax Rotary Park. – Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland 1 / 2

AJAX — For years, the Ajax waterfront has been plagued by a form of algae called cladophora.

Now, blue-green algae has been detected and it could be more dangerous than regular algae.

Blue-green algae can release a toxin that can be harmful to humans and animals who swim or drink the water.

Testing by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) found the blue-green algae near Paradise Beach (formerly Pickering Beach).

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Laura Freeland, the manager of health protection with Durham Region’s health department, said, “While current test results from the MECP indicate a small amount of blue-green algae in the water at Paradise Beach, we want people to understand that water conditions could change at any time and the health department may not be immediately aware of these changes.

“In particular, these changes could occur with warmer water temperatures, which can help to increased algal growth. That’s why it’s important for people to look at the water for potential signs of blue-green algae, which could include scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface,” Freeland added.

Ward 3 local Coun. Joanne Dies said she’s not surprised the blue-green algae was found.

“No. Way back in 2004, I started reading about it. It was in Quebec. Experts tell me it’s pond scum,” Dies said.

Generally, it needs to be a placid place with not a lot of wave action, she said.

The most famous case of a community affected by blue-green algae is Toledo, Ohio. In 2014, algae got into the city’s treated drinking water and residents were told not to drink water coming out of the tap.

“We were told it can’t happen here. It’s a totally different scenario. It’s here,” Dies noted.

Freeland noted blue-green algae are microscopic, plant-like organisms that occur naturally in ponds, rivers, lakes and streams, and although often blue-green in colour, the algae can also be olive-green or red.

People should be cautious around blue-green algae as some can produce toxins which may be harmful to humans and animals.

Dies said a number of factors are involved in the algae’s growth, including nitrogen and phosphoros to feed on and hot weather helping it spread.

“It’s the weather, but it also needs phosphoros and nitrogen,” she noted. “Anyone who’s health is compromised is vulnerable to this.”

She noted the region stopped testing the water at Rotary Park Beach a few years ago. The beach was found to be unsafe for swimming 98 per cent of the time because of elevated E. coli measurements.

“Paradise, they consider it the only beach for swimming. They don’t test (Rotary). If you don’t have the research and the numbers, you can’t back it. We need the info,” Dies said. “It’s not good, not good at all. It’s rather scary.”

Paul Welleans, the co-chair of environmental group PACT POW (Pickering Ajax Citizens Together to Protect Our Water), said he’s not surprised.

“I don’t think so. It’s been getting worse for a few years. It’s climate change. Climate change is here. Anyone denying that is delusional,” Welleans noted.

Dies and PACT POW have been working to have phosphoros coming out of the nearby Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant greatly reduced.

Walleans added algae has been forming since early June, “which is early. I’m not surprised. It’s concerning.”

The Ajax waterfront has the “specific problem” of being near the Duffin Creek plant, he said.

“It’s unfortunate, of course,” Welleans added.

Phosphoros occurs naturally in every lake or body of water, he noted.

Walleans added that the Duffin plant “is the main source of the phosphoros” for algae along the town’s waterfront.

“The town’s experts have done a number of studies,” he said. “It shows 98 per cent of the phosphoros is coming from the plant. Durham Region says that’s not the case, that it’s coming from fertilizer and run-off.”

He said ‘tertiary treatment’ would decrease the amount of phosphoros discharged to about one per cent of effluent.

“If you decrease the phosphoros, you decrease the algae,” he said.

In the late summer and early fall, as the algae decomposes, “it’s terribly disgusting” near the waterfront, he added.

The region has said over the whole lake, phosphoros is low, which Welleans doesn’t disagree with.

“When phosphoros goes into the lake, it doesn’t go out into the lake. It stays near the shore,” he noted.

Freehand said people can protect themselves and their pets by not swimming or playing in areas where water is discoloured or where foam, scum or mats of algae on the water’s surface are present. Children or pets should not play in or drink water in areas where a beach advisory posted.

Consuming fish from areas where mats of algae are present or where a swimming advisory is posted is also not advisable, she added.

by Keith Gilligan

Keith Gilligan is a reporter, covering the Town of Ajax for Metroland Media Group’s Durham Region Division. He can be reached at Follow on Twitter and Facebook Email: KGilligan@durhamregion.comFacebookTwitter