May 15, 2013

CVC questions river study, predicts lower population

As published in The Erin Advocate

Credit Valley Conservation has raised serious questions about Erin's SSMP study of the West Credit River and lowered expectations of how much the urban population may grow in the future, partly due to the impact of climate change.

The Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) will include an Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) that sets a limit for the number of urban residents, based on the West Credit River's ability to safely absorb treated sewage effluent. CVC has reviewed the draft ACS, and comments are expected from the Ministry of the Environment.

"CVC is of the opinion that the ACS has over estimated the ability of the watercourse to receive effluent," said CVC Water Resources Specialist Luke Reed, in an April 17 letter to Matt Pearson of BM Ross, which completed the ACS.

"As such the environmental impacts of the three population scenarios presented in the report have been understated. Using the information presented in the draft ACS for further design decisions may have unexpected negative impacts on the water quality and aquatic ecosystem."

Reed said the ACS and future Environmental Assessment studies also need to take into account the impact of extra stormwater that would drain from new developments, which would use up some of the river's assimilative capacity.

He also proposed different methods for assessing water quality, and installation of another stream flow gauge somewhere between Tenth Line and Winston Churchill to collect data over a one-year period. It is not known if this would delay completion of the SSMP.

"We believe that some of the assumptions that have gone into the draft Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) report need to be firmed up," said CVC Deputy CAO John Kinkead, speaking at last Monday's special council meeting on the SSMP.

"The available assimilative capacity of the West Credit River will never be any greater than it is today – it will probably decline as a result of climate change and other factors," said Kinkead, who also spoke as a delegation at last Tuesday's council meeting.

"There are analyses out now that say that we will see higher flows in the spring, because there is likely to be more rain and less snow. But on the other hand, the flow in July, August and September are likely to be lower in the future."

The ACS looks at maximum future population scenarios ranging from 6,500 to 13,500, for the combined urban centres of Hillsburgh and Erin village.

"We believe it's more in the lower half of that range that the West Credit can tolerate," said Kinkead.

The current combined population is estimated at 4,280. The Solmar development plan alone could boost that to more than 7,000 in over 20 years, the Tavares development in Hillsburgh could add over 2,000 people, and there are other small housing developments possible.

Kinkead said CVC is not opposed to a sewer system for Erin, or to the possibility of a partnership (or co-proponency) between the Town and developers to share the costs of further environmental studies.

"The province does not generally support partial servicing. [Town water with septic systems.] I don't think any of us went into the SSMP exercise not fully expecting that communal wastewater collection and treatment wouldn't somehow come out as a preferred recommendation," he said.

In an April 25 letter to former Erin CAO Frank Miele, Kinkead said he wanted to ensure that CVC's concerns "are addressed in the ACS prior to its finalization and further that those recommendations be carried forward in drafting the Terms of Reference (ToR) for subsequent phases of the wastewater servicing EA process.

"In light of these concerns, and in view of the fact that the MOE comments on the draft ACS are still outstanding, we recommend that the report to Council recommending moving forward on the EA be deferred until the ACS is finalized."

At last week's council meeting, Miele recommended for the second time that council authorize him to start discussions with developers about cost sharing and the terms of reference for the next phases of the EA, but council decided to defer any such discussions until the SSMP is complete.