Flush crunch coming in Innisfil

A building boom is leaving the town a little flushed out.

According to staff, the town’s sewer treatment capacity is going to be full by 2023 if changes aren’t made.

And although upgrades have been on the books for a while, the town’s growth is creating a sewer shortfall as well as a cash crunch.

“Since the 2012 master plan, we have known there should be a waste water expansion plan in the future,” town CAO Jason Reynar said.

A staff report shows the estimated cost for expansions to the waste water treatment plant on St. Johns Road is $87 million.

The bad news: to date, only $13.5 million has been collected from development charges.

The current waste water treatment plant opened in 1987 with four holding tanks, with four more tanks added in 1996.

There are 100 kilometres of gravity-fed sewer pipes buried beneath the roads, which all lead to the plant.

Septic trucks also drop off their haul.

Once taking in the sewage, aluminum sulphate, or alum, is added to the liquid, which helps suspended particles bind together so they can settle to the bottom.

The liquid flows through a screen to remove grit, getting rid of anything that sinks or floats.

After that, the liquid is put into bubbling aeration tanks, where micro-organisms go to work eating the biodegradable matter.

“It’s all biological, basically this is a biological zoo,” waste water operations team lead Dave Sparrow said.

Some of the older sludge, rich with micro-organisms, is added to the mixture to enhance the treatment.

Next, the fluid goes to a clarifying tank, where the sludge settles to the bottom and a large stirring arm collects the sludge into a central hopper.

After that, the mostly clean water is sent through a filter, which includes an ultraviolet disinfection system.

It is then poured back into Lake Simcoe, and the process repeats itself.

Some of the remaining sludge is also sent away to be used on secondary crops like sod or soy.

While council is ready to debate the expansion plan on Sept, 5, interim plans are in the works.

One of the solutions to help with capacity has been adding a $5 million Lystek membrane system, which takes up less space than the old sand filter system. Those membranes can filter water faster than the older system.

Another piece of that puzzle is upgrading the water treatment plant so it doesn’t have to backwash every few hours, saving what amounts to about a thousand homes worth of wastewater.

And finally, there is submitting a new application to the Ministry of Environment and Conservation and Parks to adjust the plant’s capacity to 17,000 cubic metres a day.

However, if that is approved, the town would still reach its sewage capacity by 2023.

“There’s no doubt in the last two years, we’ve seen a spike in the number of housing permits,” Reynar said.

He was clear in saying the town isn’t behind where it should be.

“We’ve got the money to do a design, so we’ve got some time, but we’re talking about $60 million to $80 million to be front-end financed,” Reynar said. “We need the money up front to build it so the capacity is available when they want to turn the water on for that new house.”

However, he added, it’s not like the town could collect the $73.5 million in development charges and start building the expansion tomorrow.

“It’s challenging to ask for this at a time when we’re asking for development charge increases,” he said. “We were nervous about this with respect to how Innisfil Heights was going to be funded, because there isn’t the same guarantee if we bring the services, there will be development charges to offset the costs.”

Residential developers are prepared to pay up-front costs because they know the housing market is hot, Reynar said.

The town has already been working on an environmental assessment for the expansion, along with a new Master Servicing Plan.

“We are looking at extending servicing to areas that are underserviced, look at Innisfil’s growth areas and reduce impacts to Lake Simcoe,” InnServices CEO Wally Malcolm said during a council presentation Aug. 8.

Malcolm is updating the Master Servicing Plan to accommodate growth to 2031 and beyond.

Residents can comment on the Master Servicing Plan until Aug. 24, and Malcolm knows there’s a lot to take in.

“The short-term projects from 2019 to 2023, (including) the expansion of the Lakeshore Water Pollution Control Plant, amount to over $146 million,” Malcolm said.

And projects slated for 2024 to 2031 total another $85 million.

For now, staff is suggesting council delay adding any more housing or business wastewater commitments until a proper strategy is in place.

Staff is also hoping to work with the development community to get the front-end financing.

Tony Veltri — New Tecumseth mayor

Since 325 words don’t allow for in depth platform pronouncements, I’ll get right to it. Within the first 100 days of taking office, I will ask council to support several measures that will immediately take us on a new course. They include:

— Stopping any further progress on the $15 million new administration centre. I am opposed to draining reserves by $7 million and adding at least $8 million in long-term debt that can only be financed by taxes, to pay for it. I will ask for all options to be investigated.

— I will ask council to reaffirm the town’s opposition to the 15,000 unit Cappuccitti/Mattamy proposal between Alliston and Beeton and send it to Simcoe County and the OMB. The incumbent mayor is the only consistent supporter of this application.

— I will ask council to support changing council meeting nights to Wednesdays because Mondays are inefficient, don’t leave time for public scrutiny of agendas, and are interrupted by holidays. Since the meeting format change in March 2017, council has held approximately 30 “special meetings” attached to the regular agenda. That means they don’t meet enough, which creates inefficient delays in decision-making and takes the public out of the mix.

— I will ask support for the reintroduction of standing committees, particularly planning, including public representation and not merely as an advisory board. Standing committees allow the public to be involved from the beginning. It’s a means of taking control back from developers, who’ve had a good run of the place for long enough.

— I will ask council to support ending any further intrusion by Simcoe County into our water and wastewater infrastructure, as well insist New Tecumseth directs where new growth occurs.

— I will not sign-off on the Briar Hill water connection deal as negotiated behind closed doors. And, I will move fast-tracking the pipeline connection to Tottenham.

-More that can be said, but I’m out of space. for full details.

Tony Veltri