April 30, 2014

Small pipes could mean big savings on sewers

As published in The Erin Advocate

In the quest for a sewer system that could actually be acceptable to Erin residents, both in terms of cost and community impact, the Town is learning more about alternatives to traditional systems.

One option presented at a recent workshop in the council chambers, organized by Roy Val of Transition Erin, showed councillors, staff and community members a dramatically different approach to wastewater.

The Small Bore Sewer (SBS), patented by Ottawa-based Clearford Industries, employs a septic tank on each property to digest solid wastes, similar to what most Erin residents use now.

Instead of a drainage bed on the property, a public system of small pipes would drain the liquid from those tanks to a treatment facility. Because the tank intercepts the initial discharge, peak flows in the pipe system would be reduced.

“Innovation is overdue,” said Clearford Senior Associate Peter Rupcic. “We remove solids at the source. Water is easier to move than solids and water.”

Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) Consultant BM Ross has expressed doubts about whether an alternative system like SBS would be acceptable to the Ministry of the Environment  (MOE), since there are relatively few of them. But Rupcic said SBS systems are designed by professional engineers and have a 20-year track record, including provincial funding.

“There is nothing experimental about it,” said Rupcic. “There is no risk in the design.”

Clearford's Small Bore Sewer Design

Clearford has 11 installations in Canada, plus active projects in China, India, Columbia and Peru. Rupcic said their system is fully understood by the MOE and is eligible for infrastructure grants.

“The Clearford system is less expensive to purchase and install than conventional sanitation systems,” says the company website, www.clearford.com. “But the largest savings will come through lower operating and maintenance costs.”

Rupcic said the cost of a traditional system could make it very challenging for Erin to move forward with a wastewater solution.

“The Town should be giving serious consideration to an alternative method,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about what you are discharging.”

He said SBS allows municipalities to avoid problems of traditional systems, including concrete or PVC pipes breaking in harsh conditions, and being invaded by tree roots.

SBS pipes are designed to last 90 years and never get blocked up with solid material, since they carry only liquid. They could be as small as 3 inches in diameter, though pipes in some parts of the system could be as wide as 8 inches, depending on the design, with allowance for future growth.

They are buried only deep enough to avoid freezing, with shallow trenches or horizontal drilling beside the roadway where possible. This avoids the deep, middle-of-the-road trenches of traditional systems, which are very expensive and disruptive for the community.

SBS and traditional systems both operate primarily via gravity, with the help of pumping stations in low areas, but SBS pumping stations are much smaller.

One of the issues with traditional sewers is infiltration – the amount of fresh water that leaks into the pipes. BM Ross estimates that with each Erin resident using about 350 L of water per day, a treatment plant would have to be oversized, designed to handle 440 L per person. The extra 90 L per person per day capacity is required by the MOE.

During major storms or spring runoff, leakage into sanitary sewers forces many municipalities to bypass their treatment plants. This happened recently in Orangeville, meaning that raw, untreated sewage flowed into the Credit River.

The SBS system has fewer joints since the flexible pipe comes in 350-metre rolls, and incoming connections are fused and sealed like a gas line to prevent infiltration.

“Treat only what you produce and do it in the most efficient manner available,” said Rupcic. “The big pipe is old thinking.”

Erin would still need a treatment facility designed to handle both the daily urban flow, plus the septage pumped out of rural and urban tanks, but the plant would be much smaller than a traditional one. Normally a plant represents 20% of the system cost, and the collection system 80%.

Each household would get new single-chamber polypropylene digester tank, normally in the back yard using existing plumbing. Where necessary, a larger concrete tank could serve more than one household, including apartments or condos, and restaurants may need a grease trap on the inlet side.

The tanks do not use chemicals, grinders, pumps or electrical devices. Clearford’s original tanks needed pumping every 7-12 years (instead of the current 3-5 years) and their new design will have a longer pump-out cycle.

The resident would own the pipe leading to the tank, but the Town would own the tank and everything downstream, and would also be responsible for pumping out the tank.

One of the Clearford installations is in Wardsville, Ontario, a village of about 420 people between London and Chatham. A traditional sewer system there would have cost $7 million, but Clearford built that system for $3.6 million, said Rupcic, and it took 10 months instead of two years. That installation is 14 years old, and more than half the tanks have not needed to be pumped out yet.

BM Ross gave a rough estimate of $65 million for system to serve Hillsburgh plus Erin village (not counting grants that could cover a major portion). Town council will soon get an analysis of what it might cost per household to build a traditional system versus an SBS system (with a breakdown on servicing Erin village only or Hillsburgh only).

Rupcic said it would be possible to design a hybrid system, using SBS in some areas and traditional sewers in other areas. SBS is also suitable for light industrial development, of the type being sought by Erin.

SBS technology is not just for small populations. A community of more than 10,000 uses a similar system Australia, and a Clearford project to serve 6,000 in India could be expanded to 100,000, he said.

While SBS is a patented, proprietary design, potential repair or expansion of the system could be done by any general contractor who understands how it works.

Good food, company and after-dinner games

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Community Dinner at All Saints Anglican Church isn’t just about good food. It is an opportunity to feel the bonds that make Erin strong – and a chance to have some fun, testing your luck and mental agility at a Games Night.
“It was important to us to create a social event with no strings attached, where you can come and meet people,” said Kathryn Dancey, who has helped organize the dinner.
It is held in the church basement at 81 Main Street in Erin, normally on the last Friday of each month, starting at 6 pm. Everyone is welcome.
The event has grown in popularity since it started in December 2010, with about 90 people now attending each month.
“It’s free, with no sermons,” said Rev. Susan Wilson, Rector at All Saints. “Just a nourishing meal and good fellowship.”
There’s a basket near the door for those who wish to make a contribution. Donations more than cover the cost of putting on the dinner. The committee of volunteers has been able to donate back to the Erin community, including the East Wellington Community Services Food Bank, the Special Friends Club, the ARC Industries building fund, the Erin Skate Park and the Upper Credit Humane Society.
Last Friday they served spaghetti and meatballs with salad, and apple crisp for dessert, and for the third month now, dinner was followed by a Games Night. It was organized by Chris Bailey and Stephanie Giugovaz, who offer toys, games, tutoring and camps at the nearby Brighten Up store.
Chris Bailey of Brighten Up
teaches a card game to kids
at the Games Night, following
last week’s Community Dinner
at All Saints Church.
No kittens were actually harmed when we played Kittens in a Blender, an easy-to-learn card game that challenges you to save as many of your own kittens as possible, even while trading your hands with other players.
I enjoy board and card games, but rarely have a group of people to play them with, so this is a nice opportunity to meet people and have a few laughs. It is also a chance to play a game that you are not sure about buying.
“We get to open games we want to try,” said Stephanie. “We pick the shorter, easier games.”
I actually won a round of Rack-o, where you have pick either a turned-up card or one from the pile, hoping to get as many cards a possible in ascending order. Like most entertaining games, it combines luck with strategy, and all the rules can be learned in less than a minute.
Next time, maybe I will play The Magic Labyrinth, which looks a bit harder since you have to figure your way through a maze that is hidden on the lower level of a two-layer game board. You move a magnet piece on the top that carries a steel ball on the bottom.
Every time a player hits an unseen wall, the ball drops and rolls back to the beginning. It’s a bit like real life – if you can remember the location of the walls, you don’t bump into them the next time around.

Looking Back

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)

Construction workers laid the cement base this week for the new Erin water tower, which should be in operation by June.
Education Minister William Davis has announced special tax relief for municipalities where school board consolidation has sent taxes soaring by as much as 200%. The school levies jumped after 1,446 local school boards were amalgamated into 236 large ones.
The “As We Were” column looked back at the Advocate of 1920. Henry Austin purchased land known as The Point near Stanley Park, in order to build several cottages. “These will make a good addition to Erin’s beauty spot.”
Harvey Peavoy of Hillsburgh has sold his Supertest dealership to furnace serviceman Dennis Barry of Erin.
A Letter to the Editor from four teenagers said now that the village has a new liquor store, it’s time there was a recreation centre. “Many of the parents and elderly people of our village complain that all we ever do is walk up and down the streets. Well, we wouldn’t if we had something half decent to do. Citizens! Help get us off the streets.”

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)

Two people were taken to hospital with back injuries after a crash at the Erin Soaring Society on Concession 10. Guelph OPP said a glider was attempting to take off, but was forced to abort and crashed.
A ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the new addition at Brisbane Public School. Speaking were Principal W.A. Higgins, Trustee Virginia Kennedy, Wellington County Education Director W.G. Forsythe, Bert Wheeler from the Township, Evelyn O’Sullivan from the Village and MPP Jack Johnson. Mrs. D. Dick led the school choirs, including renditions of Born Free, Puff the Magic Dragon and Let There Be Peace on Earth.
Terry Hryhor wrote a Letter to the Editor, complaining about lack of community response to the Erin Flag Contest. He had proposed the contest as part of the village’s Centennial celebration.
The Erin Separate School Committee held an open house to display plans for the new school to open this fall. On hand to answer questions was Trustee Rodney Bell. The initial semi-permanent steel-frame structure will be built next to St. John Brebeuf Church on Millwood Road.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)

After ten years of being in a portable school, staff and students at St. John Brebeuf will get a permanent building. Principal Anne Atkinson announced that the provincial government has allocated $1.7 million to the project, covering 60% to 70% of the cost.
Eric Holmes, who was principal at Erin District High School for 9 years, has been promoted to principal at John F. Ross Collegiate in Guelph.
The East Wellington Advisory Group (EWAG), which has operated out of three locations over five years, appealed to Township Council for permission to build a new facility on Hwy 24 just outside the village boundary. The site would have to be zoned to allow the sale of used clothing and books, plus a kitchen and dining area, a library and a meeting room. Council told Executive Director Marion Chambers that a decision would be made after a public meeting. Township Planning Consultant Gary Cousins said the County discourages growth outside the village, but there is no suitable site inside the boundary.
Lions Club Chairman Fred Steen helped launch the club’s fundraising campaign to finish the large vacant room on the second floor of the Erin Community Centre. The Centre at the arena has been open for ten years, but there is a need for a hall with washrooms and a kitchen, to handle large events. The wall will be opened up to allow viewing of the ice surface.

April 23, 2014

It's not too late for climate change solutions

As published in Country Routes

Measures to counter the damaging effects of climate change can be achieved without catastrophic costs and devastation of the world economy, according to new studies in the debate over global warming.

That’s music to the ears of environmental activists like Erin’s Liz Armstrong, who have pushed for practical climate action at the local level.

She has started a chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby (CCL), designed to influence political decision makers at various levels of government.

Liz Armstrong
Two recent reports from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say that while the risk of increasing droughts, floods, crop failures and severe storms due to the carbon from fossil fuels is reaching an alarming level, the ability to do something about it remains well within the reach of national governments.

“It will get worse before it gets better, but it’s not too late, and it is not going to cost the earth,” said Armstrong. “We have to buckle down and steel ourselves to do this. It is the developed countries that are causing the problem. There is no excuse not to act.”

The IPCC report says climate change is “unequivocally” caused by people burning fossil fuels and that it poses a serious threat to peace and stability. Scientists warn that we need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent or more by mid-century to avoid calamity.

“The good news is that it will not cost much compared to the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and compared to the cost if we do nothing,” said Armstrong.

Her group is meeting on the first Saturday of each month at Erin United Church, training on how to engage politicians and the public, planning local action and getting updates from CCL leaders. She can be contacted by email: liz@lizarmstrong.ca, and more information is available at www.citizensclimatelobby.ca.

The federal Conservative government has put a lot of energy into oil sands expansion, pipeline plans and energy exports. They have promised tougher environmental legislation, and say Canada is on track to trim greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 from their 2005 level. But The Toronto Star reports that Environment Canada is less optimistic, saying last fall that at the current rate, we will achieve a mere 0.4-per-cent cut.

The Citizen’s Climate Lobby favours a “Carbon Fee and Dividend”, essentially a carbon tax placed on fossil fuels at their source. This would result in higher fuel prices, but all of the extra money would be rebated equally to Canadians. It would be a market-driven system, benefiting those who use less fuel.

The Lobby also objects to the current distortions in the marketplace, in which taxpayers’ money is used to mask the true cost of energy. A report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculated that Canada provided $26 billion to subsidize the energy industry in 2011, which is $787 per person.

IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton said removing these subsidies worldwide could lead to a 13 percent decline in carbon dioxide emissions. This would reduce global energy demand and strengthen incentives for research and development in energy-saving and alternative technologies.

Canada already has a thriving “green” sector, innovating and making money in areas such as energy, infrastructure, transportation, biorefinery, industrial processes and wastewater treatment.

“Canada’s clean tech sector is now a $11.3 billion industry, it employs more Canadians than aerospace, and has the potential to grow to $50 billion by 2022, representing 2% of the global market share,” said Armstrong, suggesting that subsidies for clean technologies instead of oil would be a better investment for Canada.

A study by Analytica Advisors estimates employment in the clean tech sector could grow from the current 41,100, to more than 75,000 in the next eight years.

“Canadian innovation is helping to clean up contaminated land and water, store energy for use during peak demand, improve efficiencies in solar systems and transform greenhouse gases into stronger concrete to build greener buildings,” says the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, commenting on the study.

“Other countries have taken notice, buying environmentally-friendly Canadian technologies that help reduce and recycle solid waste, improve efficiencies and reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and petro-products. Approximately 74 percent of Canadian clean technology companies are exporters, with 42 percent of export sales going to non-US countries.

“While Canadian clean technology enjoys strong market diversification overseas, it struggles to compete domestically. One challenge is the price of carbon-based energy, which is relatively cheap in Canada compared to many countries.

“At a time when the world is thinking twice about investing in a high carbon future, Canada can ill-afford to put its economic eggs in the oil sands basket. According to the IPCC, the world must keep two thirds of all fossil fuel reserves in the ground to avoid dangerous global warming.

“Canada is at a crossroads. Does it invest in dirty oil and pipelines, and lock the country into a high-carbon economy, or does it focus on transforming its economy, using clean technology to drive innovation and economic growth?”

“Building a green economy will create more long-term jobs,” said Armstrong, who remains hopeful that some of those companies could be attracted to Erin. “Smart municipalities are making plans and looking to the future. Election candidates need to say what type of development they would like to see here in the next 50 years.”

Climate change could mean a low flow of water in the West Credit River at certain times. As a precaution against excessive contamination from treated sewage effluent, a 10% cutback has been made in the maximum number of new residents to be allowed in Erin village and Hillsburgh.

Food is another key aspect, with crop yields and fish harvests declining as the world population increases, making it difficult to sustain a quality, affordable supply.

“This is no longer a picture about poor farmers in some regions being hit by climate change,” said Tim Gore, head of policy for food and climate change at Oxfam. “This is a picture about global agriculture being hit – US, Russia, and Australia – with global implications for food prices.”

A TD Bank report says natural catastrophes will cost Canadians an estimated $21-$43 billion per year by 2050.

“The frequency of weather events has increased,” said lead author and TD economist Craig Alexander. “Storms that used to occur every forty years are now occurring every six years. And because of the composition of Canadian economy and society, we’re ending up with more damaging events.”

He said city dwellers are at the highest risk, and with Canadians becoming wealthier, they have more valuable assets to lose in the event of a catastrophic storm. Repairs after a catastrophe tend to inflate the GDP, masking the costs that are shared broadly via the insurance industry and government relief funding.

The TD report highlights estimates that for every dollar invested in adaptation to climate change prevention, such as severe weather resistant buildings, from $9-$38 worth of costs will be avoided in the future.

“Here in the Town of Erin, we should be cognizant of these predicted increases of weather and climate extremes when planning and building new (or replacing old) infrastructure, housing, roads and bridges, etc., significantly boosting their capacity to withstand more punishing climate stresses than in the past,” said Armstrong.

“All of these suggestions were brought forward in 2011 by Amaranth Mayor Don MacIver, an Environment Canada climatologist who was a member of the IPCC. Our Council (present and future) needs to be aware, and prepared to act on his suggestions and forewarnings.”