Province makes ‘long overdue’ decision on York wastewater solution

After 8 years of waiting, province refuses York Region’s preferred option to instead expand Durham’s Duffin Creek treatment plant, which empties into Lake Ontario

The province is officially opting against York Region’s plans for a sewage disposal solution in Lake Simcoe despite millions of dollars and seven years of regional efforts to get it approved.

Ontario announced today that it would instead introduce legislation to expand the existing plant in Duffin Creek, jointly owned by York Region and Durham Region, which drains into Lake Ontario. This will accommodate the sewer capacity the region needs to grow, but was not York Region’s most desired Upper York sewer solution.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor has been an Upper York supporter. But after years of waiting, he said it’s positive the province is making a decision, although more details on the way forward are needed.

“Any decision is better than no decision,” Taylor said. “If we’re going to meet the growing demands, the need for housing options… that will start that process. It’s been long overdue.

York Region did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

York Region has been waiting for a response to its Upper York Sewage Solutions proposal since 2014, when it completed an environmental assessment, spending about $100 million on it. The plan would involve a new facility in the area to accommodate regional growth, with the region maintaining that technology would offset any environmental impact. He has stuck to the solution ever since, despite concerns from Indigenous communities and environmentalists worried about the impact on Lake Simcoe.

The decision comes a year after the formation of a York Region Wastewater Advisory Committee, tasked by the province with reviewing options for the region’s wastewater. The panel has now released a report supporting the Duffin Creek option.

In its report, the committee said that the expansion of the York-Durham sewage treatment plant would meet wastewater needs, be less expensive and would be consistent with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan.

In its analysis of the Upper York Sewage Solution option, the commission said it would not meet the requirements of the act and that the Chippewas of Georgina Island continue to oppose it. He also said greenhouse gas emissions would be significantly higher than the Duffin Creek option.

“The Duffin Creek Treatment Facility is one of the most efficient wastewater treatment facilities in the province,” Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister David Piccini said in a news release. , adding that the facility “ensure the protection, enjoyment and well-being of Lake Ontario, lakeshore communities and littoral zones.

Despite the uncertainty, the region has retained Upper York Sewage Solutions in its latest water and wastewater scheme. It has also counted on the solution to come in its new official plan to adapt to the growth to come.

Claire Malcolmson, executive director of Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, welcomed the announcement. She thanked the advisory committee for considering the environment.

“The lake has limits to growth, and they are supported by scientists,” she said. “The panel recognized that these limits must be respected.”

She said the region has put itself in a bad position by insisting on the Upper York sewer solution that would conflict with the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

“It’s too bad York Region had to wait to get part of this development serviced in Newmarket,” she said. “But if they hadn’t had this new idea, which had just been made illegal by the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, then they wouldn’t have anything to complain about.”

Taylor said more technical details are needed on the Duffin Creek plant expansion plans. He said the area might not be too affected in terms of planning if the timing and cost can be similar to what Upper York may have been.

“A lot of things remain to be understood,” he said.

The Duffin Creek plant option is not without opposition. Although officials are maintaining treatment to ensure the discharge is clean, some of the public have protested against the idea of ​​more sewage passing through the plant.

Durham Region President and CEO John Henry said the municipality needed more time to consider the response to the announcement.

“We will review it over the next few days and provide feedback once we understand the technical details and the implications for Durham residents,” Henry said in a press release.

The province’s press release doesn’t directly mention the Upper York sewer solution, but says the Duffin Creek plant expansion is “the most efficient option available.”

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