May 22, 2013

Extra river monitoring delays SSMP process

As published in The Erin Advocate

Completion of Erin's Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) is being delayed until at least late this year, as Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) says it needs more data on the flow of the West Credit River near the Tenth Line during the dry summer months.

In a recent letter, CVC said it wants to install a new streamflow gauge, to gather data for a minimum of one year. But after a meeting of the SSMP Core Management Committee last week, it was announced that CVC has agreed that monitoring the gauge until October should be sufficient for it to complete its review of the Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS).

New housing developments cannot proceed until the SSMP is complete. Solmar Development Corp is running its application for a subdivision north of Dundas Street at the same time as the SSMP, in hopes of getting approval more quickly after it wraps up.

A final draft version of the SSMP report, recommending a full sewer system for Erin village and Hillsburgh, has been made public, but more changes are possible. The crucial ACS, which will form part of the SSMP report, is also not done yet. Consultants BM Ross did an initial version, but CVC is demanding changes and the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) has yet to provide feedback.

Based on the ACS, the MoE will set a legal limit for the urban population (Hillsburgh and Erin village combined), based on the West Credit River's ability to safely absorb treated sewage effluent. The population number could range from 6,500 to 13,500, but CVC has said it is likely to be in the lower part of that range.

"The Town/CVC will be installing an additional streamflow gauge this summer to gather data to enhance the robustness of the calculations," said SSMP Project Manager Matt Pearson of BM Ross. The SSMP process represents the first two phases of an Environmental Assessment (EA). It was supposed to identify data gaps, but this requirement was not expected.

"It's not costing the town anything to make sure we have the best data, other than a little time," said Pearson. CVC is expected to pick up the relatively low cost of the gauge.

"This data will form part of the final ACS. The SSMP will not be completed until we have completed the ACS. The third phase of the Class EA would not be started until Council has accepted the SSMP."

CVC wants direct data on low-flow river conditions at Tenth Line, instead of estimates based on gauges at other locations. Conditions can vary based not only on tributaries, but on the movement of water back and forth between the river and underground aquifers.

The ideal point for discharging the effluent from a sewage treatment plant has not been determined, but the CVC has indicated that it is likely to be towards Winston Churchill Boulevard, rather than at Tenth Line (where Solmar has tentatively bought land for a sewage plant). Sewage could be treated at one location, with the effluent piped to another location for river discharge.

CVC wants the ACS to account for the impact of climate change, since drier summers could mean lower river flow and less ability to absorb effluent. At the final meeting of the SSMP Liaison Committee last week, Pearson said that will require an arbitrary reduction of the population limit.

"There are no rules about that," said Pearson. "What they want to do is have a look at it to see "what if", and they want a scenario. Climate could do this and this – what if we knock back the normally calculated AC number by ten per cent?"

Pearson reminded Erin that provincial policy requires communities to ensure necessary infrastructure for projected needs. The province promotes growth and higher density housing, with municipal water and sanitary sewers as the preferred form of servicing.

"You're supposed to go that route," said Pearson. "To have no sewers, you'd push away everything you've worked on. The SSMP is a tool to get money from senior governments. This type of project always gets funding eventually, but you have to have a plan."