January 18, 2018

Wastewater plan needs public input

Preferred options for a wastewater system that could cost $118 million and swell the urban population to 14,600 were presented to Erin town council on January 9.
This is the first detailed look at how sewer service could be provided to most homes in Hillsburgh and Erin village, as the town pushes to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) that had its first public meeting in 2009.
No decisions have been made, and it will still be more than five years until sewers could be operational.
A Public Information Centre will be held on Friday, Feb. 2 in the Centre 2000 theatre, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m. A series of reports analyzing options for the project can be downloaded from the wastewater section of the town website.
 A view of the West Credit River facing the Tenth Line from approximately 20 m downstream. 
This would be the area closest to the proposed sewage treatment plant where effluent could be discharged. 
Because this is an important spawning area for Brook Trout, the plan is to pipe the 
effluent further east and discharge it near Winston Churchill Blvd. 
Photo - Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd.
Highlights of the recommendations include a main trunk sewer line that uses Daniel Street instead of Main Street, to reduce impact on the downtown business district.
The treatment plant would be on a 12-acre site near Tenth Line and Wellington Road 52 (Bush Street), either on Solmar-owned land on the north side, or on Halton Crushed Stone land on the south (after gravel extraction).
There would be a pipe to discharge the effluent into the West Credit River downstream at the Caledon border (Winston Churchill Boulevard), which could cost $1.2 million.
A gravity-based system is recommended for most parts of Hillsburgh and Erin village, based on a complex scoring system that covers criteria such as social/cultural, technical, environmental and economic factors.
The advantages and disadvantages of collection technologies, including alternatives such as small-bore, low pressure and vacuum systems have been researched and reported in a public technical memorandum
Gravity sewers will require large trenches during construction. Some low-lying areas will need a low-pressure system to avoid the cost of extra pumping stations. There will be pressurized forcemains in several locations, and a major forcemain recommended along the Elora Cataract Trailway to move sewage from Hillsburgh to Erin village.
All property owners receiving service will not only have to share the construction cost, but also pay a one-time charge averaging $5,100 to hook up to the system once it is available and pay a new, ongoing wastewater bill based partly on usage that could average $400 to $500 per year.
“Providing wastewater services within our community is no longer a matter of if, but when – the status quo is no longer an option,” said Mayor Al Alls in an open letter to residents, available at erin.ca.
“Our town needs to grow, and it needs to diversify. This is entirely dependent upon bringing a wastewater treatment plant into our community, which will allow us to be competitive in attracting new businesses. The opportunity is before us now, and we have but one chance to effect real and positive change.”
The EA process is scheduled to be complete by this June, and the results could be appealed to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. After that, even if it is financially viable, the project would still need an estimated 18 months for final design, one year for government approval and two years for tendering and construction.
Consultant Joe Mullan, President of Ainley Group that was contracted complete Phases 3-5 of the EA, told council that the estimated cost to service existing urban residents (about 4,500 people) and businesses would be in the range of $50 million to $60 million.
There would be an additional cost of $58 million to $68 million to service future growth – which does not include the cost of sewers within the subdivisions. If the cost for existing residents is at the low end of its range, the cost for future growth will be at the high end of its range, and vice versa.
The town is primarily concerned with financing the service to existing urban properties, since developers and future landowners will pay for the growth portion. The share of the cost for each connected household is estimated at $20,000 to $25,000, but the actual amount is expected to be much lower.
The town does not have the borrowing capacity to finance a $50 million project, so it will be seeking major funding from the federal and provincial governments, pre-payment of development charges and extra contributions from developers. The town could delay servicing for some areas to limit initial costs, and could also enter into a partnership to bring in private sector investment or management.
“All funding options remain on the table – we will make the most fiscally responsible decision possible for our future,” said Alls.
It was five years ago, during Phase 2 of the EA (the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan – SSMP) that consultant Matt Pearson of B.M. Ross gave a rough estimate of $60 million to build an Erin sewer system. That was based on limited information, but it accounted for the urban population growing to 9,000-12,000. That was later scaled back to 6,000, and then more recently bumped up to 14,600, with growth over 20-30 years.
“This larger serviced population provides the opportunity for cost sharing between the existing community and growth, and hence reduce the capital costs to the existing community,” said Mullan.
In 2014, Gary Scanlon of Watson & Associates Economists said if the Town could get two-thirds (66.6%) of a $58.5 million system covered by government grants, it would leave the Town some flexibility for other borrowing, and reduce the capital cost per household to about $9,300. Such costs are normally repaid over many years, like a loan, through the property tax bill.
Some neighbourhoods with large lots and newer septic systems are to be excluded from sewer service, meaning that they will not have to contribute directly to the costs. These are: the Upper Canada Drive subdivision in Hillsburgh, the Credit River Road – Pine Ridge Road area near the Tenth Line, and the Delarmbro Drive – Patrick Drive – Erinwood Drive area near Eighth Line and Country Road 124.
Some of those homes could be brought into the system later if other nearby lands were being developed.
The system is tentatively sized and designed for a water usage rate of 380 litres of water per person per day, including a 90-litre allowance for possible “infiltration” – the water that often leaks into traditional gravity sewers, increasing the volume that a treatment plant must handle.
The 380 L rating has been criticized as too high, but Mullan defended building extra capacity, saying it would add “robustness” and give the town flexibility – especially as the system inevitably deteriorates in the latter part of its approximately 50-100 year lifespan.
At the urging of Councillor Jeff Duncan, Ainley will analyze the impact of reducing the rating. This could reduce the cost of the treatment plant, or permit an even higher level of population growth.