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Sewage problems force building freeze in Hawkesbury

Tribune-Express, vendredi 28 mars 2008

Sewage problems force building freeze in Hawkesbury
par Richard.Mahoney@eap.on.ca


Claude Demers

Because of its inadequate sewage treatment plant, the town of Hawkesbury has in effect been forced to impose a freeze on new construction in the municipality.

"Realistically, you shouldn't be approving any new development," Rick Eamon, vice-president and senior engineer with the Thompson Rosemont Group, told town council at its last meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, council deferred a decision on a recommendation by town planner Manon Belle-Isle and environmental management superintendent Richard Guertin to reject the addition of eight units to a proposed residential project. Claude Demers, president of the company developing Place de la Station, served notice that he would fight a rejection of his requested expansion. It was unfair for the municipality to refuse his request when it had recently approved new construction by other developers, the former council member argued.

In her report to council, Belle-Isle recalled that council had given the go-ahead to Charles Clément to build more housing units on Spence Avenue and Cartier Boulevard, in spite of the problems the plant is experiencing. "Consequently, it is impossible to recommend a minimal increase considering the full capacity of the sewage treatment plant," said Belle-Isle.

Demers vowed to return to council to further defend his project. Councillor Gilles Tessier agreed with Demers. "If we give permission to one, we have to give it to others. This is not an easy situation. If we stop all construction, we have to say "No" to everyone," said Tessier.

Eamon had reminded council that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has warned that no additional strain can be put on the facilities.

The environment ministry has charged the town because it has failed to ensure the Main Street facility meets provincial regulations. Since early 2005, the treatment system has not complied with Ontario standards. And the extent of the trouble has not been properly gauged because between 1998 and 2005, flows were understated, perhaps by as much as 30 per cent, since a flow meter was malfunctioning during that period.

While the plant produces about 14,000 cubic metres of sludge annually, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which runs the plant, disposes of about 6,000 cubic metres, mostly by spreading it on farmland. The other 8,000 cubic metres of waste have gone into the nearby Ottawa River.

Mayor Jeanne Charlebois reiterated that a sewage remedy was vital to the town's long-term interests. "If we do nothing, we would have no new tax revenues, no more development and more lawsuits," she commented.

A public meeting will be held April 9 to explain the preferred options on a solution to the trouble.

Two options call for the expansion of the current Main Street facility. These would cost $26.4 million or $42.2 million, depending on whether the town will be obliged to build a facility that can nitrify ammonia, or convert ammonia to a non-toxic nitrate.

The third option, building a new plant on the current site, would cost $39.6 million.

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