Social media sewage stories are ‘misinformation’ says staff

Something smells like misinformation in Mt. Brydges.

That is according to director of engineering and public works Jake Straus after he was asked by a member of the public about sewage being trucked out of the Mt. Brydges sewage plant in an open letter that made several assertions that Straus deemed inaccurate.

The $11.4-million plant has been operating at the site of the closed Caradoc Landfill since 2012, according to contractor BMROSS. Council has set aside over $5 million for an upgrade that will be part of 2023 budget discussions.

Outgoing ward two Coun. Larry Cowan asked Straus at the Oct. 17 council meeting to clarify what was happening at the plant after reading a post making the rounds on several Facebook pages.

An emailed response from Straus to a writer identifying himself as local property owner Todd Powell was shared last Friday on Facebook by Coun. John Brennan and others.

Seeing trucks hauling sewage, Powell wrote that he has been seeking answers since May. He also made statements about sewage trucked to London and diverted to Strathroy due to high flow.

He also makes references to a lawsuit he said he filed against the former Township of Caradoc in 1999 that was “settled” and involved a “court order” that he did not describe.

Straus said in his email he could not find any reference to a court order in municipal files and requested any be sent to him so he could talk to Powell about it.

Straus then described at the council meeting what was happening with the trucking of sewage.

“There is a lot of commotion about hauling sewage to Strathroy. So in our preventative maintenance what we have done just recently, we did drain out one RBC (rotating biological contactor) tank last week actually, and it was to clean it and to inspect it. So just regular preventative maintenance. We also do clean out other tanks in Mt. Brydges at the facility. So we have clarifiers, the RBCs as I mentioned, and reject water pits. We also do remove sludge as well. Those are all standard practices within that plant. We also do at some points if we have repair maintenance, what we would do is we would divert flows to Strathroy at that instance, and that would be to reduce any impact on the environment, so we don’t bypass. An example of repair maintenance would be such things as a bearing failure or something of that nature,” said Straus.

“So just to be clear, we do recognize that we have hauled sewage from Mt. Brydges to Strathroy; but this is not a result of our system failing or any capacity issues. We do recognize this and that’s why we have the previously approved $5 million in our capital funds to upgrade this facility,” added Straus.

The director had the backing of another outgoing ward two councilor.

“I went back in our February and March meetings. You had provided reports on that facility and plans for it along with the reference to some of the engineer review for this year that would result in plans for projects for 2023 that we’ve already put money aside for. So that was done in an open meeting that people can easily reference if they want more information,” said Coun. Neil Flegel.

Straus did acknowledge in the email to Powell that the plant has historically struggled to meet the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks compliance limits for certain bio-chemical traces.

Straus concluded his email to Powell with an invitation:

“I maintain that there is misinformation in the community and you have contributed to this in your email which has been widely circulated. Feel free to contact me directly if you wish to meet in person to meaningfully review the WWTF (waste water treatment facility) in Mount Brydges. I would gladly review with you the information, all of which has been publicly reported, in greater detail.”

Next year’s possible upgrades as described by Straus include changing the wastewater treatment process from rotating biological contactors (RBCs) to an extended aeration process, as well as headworks upgrades.

The director described the advantages of these upgrades as creating a more robust system, removing unwanted materials and debris before entering the treatment process (headworks facility), superior handling of fluctuating facility flows, recovers much quicker to process upsets, and staff familiarity with the process.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner