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AJAX FORCED TO REQUEST “EA BUMP-UP” TO HANDLE SEWAGE FROM MORE THAN A MILLION GTA RESIDENTS

Tuesday, October 24th 2006 2:39:57pm

October 24, 2006

Everyone in Ajax could sense something was wrong on the waterfront. Despite a huge investment in greenspace, the beaches were increasingly being closed. In 2005, for example, Rotary Park Beach was closed for the entire summer. At the same time, the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) was undergoing an Environmental Assessment for the purpose of expanding, potentially introducing higher volumes of pollutants, like phosphorous and ammonia, into the waters of Lake Ontario. As a consequence, the Town of Ajax hired a team of expert consultants to examine plans by the Regions of York and Durham to increase the size of the WPCP. The consultants found that Ajax was right to be concerned.

AJAX WANTS THE FULL USE OF ITS BEACHES BACK!

The Town of Ajax has submitted a formal request to Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten asking her to issue a Part II Order to “bump-up” the Duffin WPCP Environmental Assessment (EA). Ajax deemed this necessary, as issues relating to effluent discharge in Lake Ontario and air quality have not been satisfactorily addressed. Presently, the WPCP expansion is only subject to a Municipal Class EA, and without a Minister’s Order requiring further studies and assessment, the Regions could immediately proceed to build the expanded WPCP.

“The Regions planned the project backwards,” said Mayor Steve Parish. “Instead of using the EA to help determine the effects on the environment and what the requirements and objectives should be, they simply designed the project to meet existing regulatory requirements. This approach renders the Class EA process almost redundant.”

“A heightened level of scrutiny is necessary, given the plant is poised for a massive expansion in order to handle sewage from up to 1.3 million people in both York and Durham Regions,” Parish continued. “These two regional communities will be connected to the Big Pipe, conveying as much as 630,000 cubic metres per day of flushed sewage (the equivalent of 210 Olympic swimming pools of effluent) from as far away as Vaughan, Newmarket, Aurora and Richmond Hill, into the Duffin Creek Plant, and, ultimately, into Lake Ontario.”

“Since November 2005, Ajax has undertaken to work with the Regions (Durham and York) to identify issues of concern and to propose mitigation measures,” Parish explained. “To protect the interests of Ajax residents and others seeking a clean and healthy environment, the Town retained experts on air and odour impacts, water quality, ecology, wastewater effluent and sewage treatment technology. Gap analyses of the technical reports found serious and substantial deficiencies and omissions. They include a failure to comply with MOE water and air policies, and the Minister of the Environment’s own conditions.”

The Regions’ studies to date have not proven that the WPCP’S excessive amounts of pollutants, like phosphorus, are not having a negative impact on Ajax’s shoreline and causing inordinate algae growth. Nor does the Environmental Study Report plan for a reduction in phosphorus emissions to the extent required to protect Lake Ontario, despite the impending increase in the volume of effluent.

The Town believes it is vital that higher environmental standards and advanced treatment technologies be applied to avert further degradation of Lake Ontario and improve water quality in Ajax. Such measures have been used in other WPCPs discharging treated effluent into Lake Ontario. The precedent has already been set - the Town wants the same standards applied in Ajax.

As has been indicated throughout the Class EA process, the Town is not opposed to expansion of this WPCP. The Town simply wishes to ensure that the project is designed in a manner that protects the local environment and the residents of Ajax, as the plant will operate for many more decades.

The Big Pipe (see attached map), when completed, will allow more than a million people to flush their toilets. There is an environmental cost associated with such convenience. In Ajax’s opinion, it is the responsibility of the Ontario Government to ensure that our citizens and the local environment are not victims of an entirely avoidable water and air pollution issue.  Ajax Town Council ultimately believes the provincial government must make public health the number one priority.

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For more information and/or a photo of Mayor Parish, contact:

Christie McLardie, Manager of Communications, 905-619-2529, ext. 362 or 905-426-0304


BACKGROUNDER

Here is a summary of the Town’s issues and concerns:

Water Quality

• The proposed WPCP expansion as presently designed will not incorporate the best available technology for the removal of pollutants such as phosphorus. Better pollution control technology is currently employed by other municipalities to achieve much lower limits.

• The WPCP’s effluent plume is being discharged into Lake Ontario, extending at least three kilometres east along Ajax’s shoreline across the mouth of Duffin Creek (where it can be driven into the provincially significant coastal wetlands by strong onshore winds) and beyond the Ajax Water Supply Plant intake.

• There is concern that the water quality modeling work may have under-predicted concentrations of pollutants, such as ammonia and phosphorus emitted by the WPCP.

• No rigorous sampling program or "baseline" environmental studies were done in order to gauge the potential cumulative impacts of the proposed expansion of outflow from the WPCP into Lake Ontario and on Ajax’s waterfront/shoreline.

• The analysis should have included more rigorous evaluation of potential impacts of metals, organic contaminants and pharmaceuticals, including actual effluent data and information about how effective the WPCP is at removing such substances.

• Despite the studies showing the plant, as approved, exceeds Provincial Water Quality Objectives, the Regions are not proposing either to limit phosphorus outputs (they will increase significantly) or to extend the existing outfall (diffuser) pipe farther into Lake Ontario to limit near shore impacts. The Regions own studies indicate that a substantial expansion of the offshore diffuser pipe is a possible solution.


Air and Odour Control

• There has been an incomplete assessment of background air contaminants, which in turn raises an issue about impact assessment from the expanded WPCP and an important issue for the EA process.

• There is an incomplete assessment of odour impacts, with the result that some odour sources in need of control measures may not yet have been identified or properly assessed. Until a full odour assessment has been completed, it is premature to identify and approve specific control/mitigation measures.

• Until these matters have been addressed, the Regions have not provided “Certificate of Approval Level detail”.