June 18, 2014

Erin Mayor questions Orangeville growth

As published in The Erin Advocate

Mayor Lou Maieron is complaining loudly about limitations on new housing in Erin – and about the higher level of growth allowed in Orangeville.

The mayor claims the newly-imposed urban population limit of 6,000 people (4,500 existing, plus 1,500 new), based on the river’s capacity to handle sewage effluent, does not meet Erin’s needs. The Town currently relies entirely on septic systems, but is studying the possibility of building sewers.

In letters to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and Erin’s Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) consultant BM Ross, Maieron questions how Orangeville could be allowed to grow to more than 30,000 people on the East Branch of the Credit River, while Erin is limited to 6,000 on the West Branch, which he said appears to be “a similar size or bigger river”.

“Could it be that Orangeville is using up too much of the assimilative capacity of the Credit River?” he said in an email to The Erin Advocate. “Has Erin been sold down the river so that Orangeville can grow? Do not know at this time, I am speculating.”

He asked for stream flow rates downstream of Orangeville, but these were not provided. He acknowledges that Island Lake Reservoir may act as buffer to maintain more constant flows downstream of Orangeville, but said this may not be the case in drought conditions.

In response to a question from The Advocate, CVC Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Martin-Downs said, “Development and servicing in Orangeville does not affect the development and servicing capabilities of Erin because they are in different drainage systems. Studies required by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for the approvals of waste water discharges take into consideration the cumulative concentrations of contaminants.”

Maieron says Orangeville has “an antiquated STP [Sewage Treatment Plant] that has a had a history of spills into the Credit River whereas Erin’s STP plant would be state of the art.”

Orangeville Mayor Rob Adams would not comment on Erin’s challenges, but said the Orangeville treatment plant is now “very efficient” after extensive rebuilding and upgrades. Holding tanks are planned to reduce the chance of sewage bypass into the river during heavy rain.

“We take very seriously our responsibility for the environment and the Credit River, and we follow the MOE rules – they are very specific and scientific,” he said.

Martin-Downs said water flow from Amaranth and Mono could influence what is available to Orangeville, while development in Erin could influence servicing capacity in Belfountain. Downstream of Orangeville, the river gets a major influx of water from Shaw’s Creek near Alton, then is joined by the East Branch downstream of Belfountain.

A joint answer to the Maieron’s questions was written by Martin-Downs and Matt Pearson of BM Ross. The full exchange is available at www.erin.ca, in the June 3 agenda.

CVC and BM Ross say that Orangeville is in a different situation from Erin, based on expanding a wastewater treatment plant built in 1929. They are now doing a servicing master planning study and Official Plan review on water and wastewater for future growth.

Adams said Orangeville has been working on an expansion plan for its plant that would allow additional housing without adding contamination to the river. The Town is gradually upgrading its collection system to reduce storm water inflow to the sanitary system, and aggressively pursuing water conservation to reduce overall flow, he said.

In his email to The Advocate, Maieron questions how Orangeville can have significant growth without impacting the river: “What’s this new technology that will allow them to do so in Orangeville, but does not exist for Erin’s having some growth?”

A small pilot facility with Orangeville firm Xogen Technologies is in operation at the municipal plant, using a low-power electrolyte process to eliminate biosolids. It also significantly reduces pharmaceuticals in the wastewater.

Orangeville has a 1995 Certificate of Approval from the MOE to service 30,000 people, and their population is expected to climb to 36,490 by 2031 if sufficient water and wastewater servicing is available. Their Assimilative Capacity Study proposes a 21% increase in sewage flow, but the MOE is requiring that this add no contamination to the river.

“This will be accomplished by decreasing the final effluent concentrations in combination with water conservation and ongoing mitigation of inflows to the sanitary collection system,” said the response letter.

“The Town of Orangeville is also required to conduct an extensive and on-going instream monitoring program,” said Martin-Downs.