Tay will have to spend big bucks to increase wastewater capacity for future development

·4 min read

Council will have to take some steps around wastewater treatment plant expansion before the, ahem, feces hits the fan.

The Victoria Harbour area plant, which is currently at capacity, cannot handle further additions to the system unless some quick patchwork steps are taken followed by a full expansion project.

The matter was brought to council's attention at its recent regular meeting during which André Moura, of Tatham Engineering Ltd., explained the situation to council.

"The existing plant does not have any spare capacity," he said. "It's operating at it's maximum average capacity. Therefore, no additional connections should be made until the plant is expanded.

"The only thing that could be done as an interim solution would be to start a discussion with the minister of environment and try to convince them to increase the rate of capacity to allow some units to be connected to the system until the plant is upgraded."

The other consideration council has to contend with is the selection of one out of the two different types of secondary treatment processes being proposed.

The existing station uses an extended aeration activated sludge (EAAS) process, said Moura, noting the process was recommended in a 2011 environmental assessment study.

The other one is Integrated Surge Anoxic Mix (ISAM™) sequencing batch reactor (SBR) method.

Both are aerobic biological processes, explains a report by Moura.

"Air or liquid oxygen is supplied in aeration tanks to provide the oxygen required for the microorganisms to break down organic compounds present in wastewater," he writes. "The organic load is reduced through oxidation of carbonaceous biological matter (i.e., BOD5 and CBOD) and ammonia. A more efficient oxidation process reduces sludge production."

At the meeting, he went through the pros and cons of both systems.

"We find that either of these technologies is suitable for the treatment," said Moura. "They can both be employed for the expansion. In terms of the cost, they're pretty much the same if you compare the 10-year cycle cost. The capital cost for the ISAM is a little bit higher."

In his report, he outlines that the construction cost for the EAAS system is $17.2 million, whereas it will cost $18.8 million for the other system. Annual operating costs for EAAS system would be $730,000, but $660,000 for the SBR method.

The 20-year cost would come up to $31.7 million for the former system and $31.9 million for the latter. The construction, Moura said, can be planned for 2023 at the latest because of design requirements and approvals.

"We're in a position now where we're going to have to proceed with the expansion sooner rather than later," said Mayor Ted Walker in a conversation with MidlandToday. "We're at a point now where we have very little room for development. We want to get that taken care of."

He said council does have some options, such as talking to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks to figure out where the infiltration is coming from.

"In Tay," Walker explained, "we don't have storm-water sewers for most places, if someone's sump pumps or eaves-troughs are hooked into the system, that's part of the infiltration. The other part is to figure out where water is getting in to the system. The consultant cited the fact that infiltration is very high. One way of getting more capacity is to reduce that."

He said he's fairly confident they can get these interim solutions in place.

"The plant is going to be expanded anyway," said Walker. "I think we're going to have to move forward with that as quickly as we can and, in the interim, we have to try to capture more capacity so we're not stalling any existing development plans."

One of the plans that could be stalled is the proposed seniors' housing project on Newton Street.

"We do have other subdivisions on the go that should be okay," he said. "It would be very unfortunate if we did have development plans in Victoria Harbour that we wouldn't be able to accommodate."

As for the money, Walker said, council will have to look at debentures.

"We're well below our debt capacity that the province sets," he said. "We have some other major debenture projects that will be coming to an end shortly."

The move, Walker clarified, doesn't affect tax rates.

"Because Tay is not fully-serviced, a lot of people don't have water and sewer services," he said. "It's not part of the tax levy; it's a user-pay system."

The matter will be brought back to a future committee meeting for further discussions before council is able to consider any decisions around the expansion.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com