08/05/2015 12:32 EDT | Updated 08/05/2016 05:59 EDT

Toronto will begin sending water quality alerts after storms

Toronto will issue public updates when storms and wet weather affect Lake Ontario.

The decision to issue the updates was not one the government made on its own. It was the result of a legal application from Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a charity dedicated to the health of the Great Lake.

The charity's founder and president Mark Mattson wanted the public to be aware when rainwater causes under-treated sewage to flow into the lake.

Sewage bypasses and spills happen because the city's wastewater treatment system is too old and too small to handle the sewage, which then gets released into the water.

"We know where the beaches are, whether they're open or closed, but the rest of the 55 kilometres of the waterfront, we have no idea what's going on," said Mattson.

Mattson said the public only found out there was sewage in the water when Freedom of Information requests were made. He said the city was "not that keen" to move on the clean water notifications, which is why Mattson, an environmental lawyer, filed the legal application. The legal work took nearly two years.

Waterkeeper filed a legal application under the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights asking that the City of Toronto be required to alert the public during sewage bypasses and spills so that people can avoid polluted areas.

"It's a really great decision and an important step in reclaiming Lake Ontario as a clean and recreational body of water," Mattson said.

He's hoping the city will put updates on its website and social media to push out information about water quality after storms in the near future.