Orillia staff to sniff around alternate sewage pumping sites

Opposition to a sewage pumping station proposed for a property near Orillia’s waterfront has prompted council to postpone a decision on the location.

The city will approach private landowners to gauge interest in a possible sale of property for an alternate pumping site, though staff warned that exploring other sites could set the project back by nearly two years and impact other work.

“If you choose an alternate site, you will have to revisit the (environmental assessment) process,” said project engineer Stan Martinello.

The pumping station proposed for municipal land directly east of Cedar Island Road is one component of a broader plan to realign Centennial Drive.

Some residents, including a number living at the nearby Elgin Bay Club, oppose the location due to its proximity to a creek that flows into Lake Couchiching.

They say leaks of sewage or fuel used to run a backup generator could pollute the lake, adding that the area in question is unstable, reclaimed land and located on a flood plain.

The new pumping station would have a two-hour reserve capacity and a diesel generator to ensure continued operation during power outages, staff said.

In the face of public opposition, council recently directed staff to report on logistics, timelines and costs of investigating alternative sites.

Exploring other locations could take 21 months, including public input, and cost $160,000.

Investigating alternate sites would additionally complicate work related to the reconstruction of the Front Street/Neywash corridor.

Staff will instead talk with landowners near the existing Elgin Street pumping station to determine if an appetite exists for the sale of private lands to accommodate a pumping station of greater capacity.

Regardless of the outcome of that work, council could still decide to erect the station on Cedar Island Road.

Were that to happen, the city should expect to face a challenge, said Tom Griffiths, a resident of the Elgin Bay Club.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to do this, but we sure as heck are prepared to do it,” said Griffiths.

Coun. Ted Emond was hesitant to delay the project, citing concerns over costs and potential impact on waterfront-area improvements.

Staff will report back Sept. 17.