By Reka Szekely
DURHAM — A proposal from the Province to limit phosphorous discharge into Lake Simcoe could freeze development in Brock and Uxbridge.
High phosphorous levels cause excessive plant growth that depletes oxygen in the lake, killing fish.
In December, the Ministry of the Environment posted a set of regulations, targeting municipal sewage, for comment. The proposed rules affect 15 Lake Simcoe Basin water pollution control plants, including plants in Uxbridge and Beaverton and lagoons in Cannington and Sunderland, limiting phosphorous discharge at the plants.
On Feb. 1, the Region sent a letter to the MOE outlining a list of concerns, including the fact that only seven per cent of phosphorous entering the lake is coming from municipal sewage treatment. The Region argues that dramatic and costly improvements to sewage treatment technology would only reduce phosphorous entering the lake by one per cent.
At a committee meeting Wednesday, Cliff Curtis, commissioner of works, said limits on phosphorous discharge would mean Brock and Uxbridge couldn’t go beyond current levels.
“Which essentially means if we have spare capacity, we’ll be unable to use it … development in Brock and Uxbridge is essentially frozen.”
The Beaverton and Uxbridge plants have been upgraded to meet enhanced phosphorous limits.
“To change the rules after the plant is built is something I have an issue with,” said Uxbridge Councillor Howie Herrema.
Meanwhile, Ajax and Whitby councils recently supported stricter phosphorous controls, with Ajax passing the original motion on Feb. 11 and Whitby endorsing it on Feb. 19.
Ajax is concerned that wastewater collected from Lake Simcoe Basin sources, in York Region and Simcoe County, is already being discharged into Lake Ontario via the York-Durham Sewage System, known as the Big Pipe.
“Encouraging population growth in the Lake Simcoe area with no apparent plan to deal with (the sewage) except putting it in a pipe and shipping it down here, Ajax is saying that’s not right,” said Whitby Coun. Don Mitchell. “I agree with Ajax.”
He thinks the cost of growth should be considered.
“If the issue is do you grow Uxbridge and further degrade the environment, do you grow Brock and further degrade the environment, I think at some point you’re going to have to say ‘no’.”
But Coun. Herrema said what the two towns are asking for goes beyond the responsibility of the residents of Ajax and Whitby.
“This is not a minor issue, it may be to Ajax or Pickering or Whitby, but it’s going to be a huge issue for us and our ability to function in the future,” he said.
Sources for phosphorous entering Lake Simcoe
Rural and Agricultural – 36 per cent
Atmosphere – 35 per cent
Urban stormwater – 13 per cent
Urban wastewater (from sewage treatment plants) – 7 per cent
Septic systems – 6 per cent
Holland Marsh polders – 3 per cent