Sara Ross
The Packet & Times
Orillia officials don’t know how the city will pay for costly water-treatment upgrades required in guidelines flowing from the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, says Peter Dance, director of public works for the city.
“We’re coming onto a roadblock with how much it costs overall,” Dance said this week. “Achieving the objectives is going to be very expensive.
“One of the biggest expenses the municipality will see will be upgrading of the waste-water treatment plant,” Dance said.
By 2015, municipalities have to upgrade their plants. The cost to Orillia will be between $8 million and $12 million.
The upgrade will include an additional phase to reduce phosphorus output.
“We’re working on the design of that right now for construction in a couple years,” Dance said.
Though no date has been set, storm-water drainage systems will also need to be upgraded.
Controls must be built into the system in order to to meet the phosphorus compliance limit.
“Those retrofits are very expensive and we haven’t really come to grips with how we might start that process,” Dance said.
Provincial funding is needed to help municipalities construct this type of infrastructure, says Claire Malcolmson, Lake Simcoe campaign co-ordinator for Environmental Defence.
“They need some more money to improve things in their own community, so money is a problem,” Malcolmson said.
The Ontario government invested $20-million in June 2008 over a four-year period to implement the Lake Simcoe plan.
That money, used on research, monitoring and soft projects, will be spent by 2012.
With a provincial election on Oct. 6, Malcolmson is looking for a campaign promise of renewed investment.
“We would ask for that same investment or more to continue the implementation of the plan.”
Kate Jordan, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), says the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure does provide funds for water and sewage treatment projects around the province, but does not have a fund dedicated strictly to Lake Simcoe.
“I know that they’ve been… looking at providing funding specifically for that watershed.”
The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure could not provide comment on Wednesday.
MOE staff have been working with municipalities on storm-water planning, Jordan said.
“I think where they’re at right now is developing training material for them.”
The amount and type of development planned in the government’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe works against Lake Simcoe’s revitalization, Malcolmson said.
“If we don’t change the way we’re doing development and we increase the population of the Lake Simcoe watershed the way it’s planned, there is going to be real problems reaching our phosphorus reduction levels as planned.”
Storm water and runoff make up 31% of the phosphorus pollution that winds up in the lake.
The government is working on a comprehensive monitoring plan, which could help.
The monitoring plan will measure the impact of farming, urban development, pharmaceutical drugs and more on the lake.
“That’s a really good thing, but it is only as useful as our use of it,” Malcolmson said, adding the lake revitalization plan has to be adaptive. “Those results should guide our policies.”