First, the Coalition for the West Credit River (Coalition) would like to express our deepest appreciation that you and your staff worked with our Technical Team over the last several months to incorporate some of our recommendations into the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA). However, we are concerned that our key recommendations for improvements to the draft ECA, received by you on 2 May, were not reflected in the ECA approved on 3 May 2022.
The Coalition is very appreciative of your strong support in recommending to the Honourable David Piccini, Minister of Environment, Conservation Parks (MECP) and Mayor Allan Alls, Town of Erin, that our draft Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan be integrated into the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA). As you are likely aware, the ECA for the Erin Water Resource Recovery Facility was approved on 3 May 2022 by Aziz Ahmed, P.Eng., MECP Manager of Municipal Water & Wastewater Permissions, appointed for the purposes of Part II.1 of the Environmental Protection Act.
The ORA is in full agreement that Low Impact Development (LID) must be a priority in development planning guidance for stormwater management practices and should include innovative green infrastructure such as rain harvesting, rain gardens, green roofs, urban trees and forests, permeable surfaces, ditches, swales, stormwater catchments, and must emphasize the protection of wetlands.
The province should not be streamlining reporting requirements. Wastewater and stormwater management are vitally important to the health and resilience of our freshwater resources and to the people of Ontario. There are numerous complex and site specific considerations for each and every outfall of sewage effluent that is unique to the area and the water body. We cannot continue to release partially treated or untreated sewage into our lakes and rivers. We must stop thinking about how we can make it easier and start thinking about how we can make wastewater treatment more efficient and effective so we can build resilience into our lakes and rivers to help prepare for a warming climate.
When these unregulated projects come home to roost, and the environmental impacts begin to damage or destroy highly valued public interests, such as our lakes and rivers, endangered species, our drinking water, and the economy, the government will pay a very high price. Unfortunately, the damage that will result from these irresponsible and negligent actions will not easily be undone, and in many cases will not be resolved in our lifetimes.
If the government wants to incorporate “one-project, one review”, then it must be a robust EA process with fulsome public and Indigenous consultation, or it may find the process much longer than it might have intended.
We were very disappointed in Ms. Paul’s decision to deny our Application for Investigation; however, we were also not surprised. This provincial government has systematically dismantled much of Ontario’s environmental policy and legislation with an ambitious goal of “cutting red tape”, and “modernizing”. They have successfully carried out their mission through specious explanations that mislead the public and deflect concern over important Environmental Registry postings and massive omnibus Bills. This method has allowed them to proceed with sweeping cuts to numerous pieces of important legislation without much public fuss – all during their declared COVID Emergency. The decision on our Application for Investigation is simply another example of bypassing key legislation to facilitate a Project that has strong community opposition.
A presentation made by the Chair at ORA’s 16 October 2021 Annual General Meeting:
The Belfountain Community and Planning Organization and Linda Heron are filing an Application for Investigation of the Corporation of the Town of Erin, under Part V, of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. We are very concerned that the Town is moving forward to the construction phase of the Project when it has not yet fulfilled key commitments it made in its Town of Erin Urban Centre Wastewater Servicing Class Environmental Study Report. The Ministry will investigate whether the Town contravened or violated Section 38 of the Environmental Assessment Act.
In consideration of the ecosystem benefits of a healthy West Credit River and its sensitive Brook Trout and Redside Dace population, we are recommending that inground infiltration of the final wastewater effluent be seriously considered, as a viable alternative to discharging warm sewage effluent directly into the West Credit River. Discharge of treated effluent by way of passive infiltration into the ground with slow percolation into this relatively small stream is the best way to ensure that the final effluent reaches the stream as natural and cold groundwater.
Judy Mabee, Chair of the Coalition and President of the Belfountain Community Organization stated that, “The Coalition is not deterred by the Minister’s Decision. We will continue on with our work to protect this highly valued coldwater Brook Trout population in the West Credit River. We are more than willing to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other federal and provincial regulators, including the Town of Erin and its consultants, to advocate for a wastewater plant that sets a new best in class industry standard for the protection of sensitive coldwater receiving streams.”