A plan to finally close the Mountview sewage treatment plant, turn it into a pumping station, and direct all of Huntsville’s sewage to an expanded Golden Pheasant plant for treatment is underway.
District Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, Fred Jahn, believes there’s “huge operating efficiencies in having one plant, not two,” he said, citing savings on things like energy and staffing costs. He also said the initiative will be completed in stages to help budget the amount of money required for the project.
What used to be a project estimated at $65 million is now projected to cost about $20 million less, thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking, said Jahn. There’s no doubt that ripping up the roads to put pipes underground will not only be costly, but extremely disruptive. District staff believe they’ve come up with an innovative idea to mitigate at least some of those costs and disruptions.
Their plan is to install a sewage conveyance force main pipe from the Mountview Wastewater Treatment Plant in downtown Huntsville and connect it to the Golden Pheasant Wastewater Treatment Plant’s existing outfall pipe, located at Scott’s Point Road. That outfall pipe, which currently discharges treated wastewater into Fairy Lake near the mouth of the Muskoka River, would be repurposed to carry the sewage flows from the Mountview plant in downtown Huntsville to the Golden Pheasant plant for treatment.
“All the underground pipework that is in place between the plant and the Muskoka River mouth, we’re going to repurpose it. That’s going to be our conveyance piece to bring the flow now to the plant and that way we don’t have to dig up Highway 60 and incur all those construction costs and hit rock here, there and everywhere,” said Jahn.
The plan also means the District would require a new Golden Pheasant outfall pipe to discharge the treated wastewater from the plant back into the environment. That outfall pipe would discharge into Fairy Lake, about a kilometre away from the one-kilometre radius intake protection zone, the area where the Fairyview Water Treatment Plant takes its water from, treats it, and pipes it into Huntsville homes and businesses as potable water.
“You cannot discharge within what’s called the IPZ, or in the protection zone, so if you draw a one-kilometre radius from where the water intake is in Fairy Lake, we’re outside of that circle,” said Jahn. “We’ve done a lot of modelling to look at water currents, wind current, thermal effects on water to do what’s called dispersion modelling. Where does the effluent go and does it properly disperse? And the answer to all those questions is, it’s all good,” he said, adding that the engineering studies have also been peer reviewed by Neil Hutchinson, principal scientist with Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Limited.
Director of Water and Wastewater Operations, Marcus Firman, said testing for algae is done around the plant’s intake. He said monitoring was stepped up last year when there was an algae bloom in Peninsula Lake, and the readings came back negative.
“So it not only shows that the modelling is accurate, not just from a theoretical point of view, but from a tactical point of view,” he said.
District staff held an information meeting at Partners Hall on November 29, 2018 to gather input on their plan as part of a proposed addendum to their 2014 Class Environmental Assessment, as required by the public consultation process.
At the meeting, a resident expressed concern with where the output is being proposed, noting that people swim in that area. Staff said they could look at maybe slightly tweaking the exact location, but said the water coming out of the outfall is safe. “I’m going to say it’s very close to drinking water quality,” said Firman at the meeting.
Hutchinson, who was also at the meeting, noted that the dispersion models had also taken into account the plant’s expansion.
Former Huntsville Mayor and Fairy Lake resident Claude Doughty was also at the meeting. He complimented staff on the open nature of the meeting and said that as a resident of Fairy Lake he supports the plan.
The closure of the Mountview sewage treatment plant, built in 1956, has been studied and talked about for years. It’s located in a flood zone and area residents have been complaining about the smell for some time, but successive District Councils have balked at the cost of decommissioning the plant. But staff say it has got to be done, particularly since new regulation coming into effect in 2021 will make the type of treatment used at Mountview obsolete.
As suggested at the meeting, the time period for comments to be included by the District in its report to the Ministry of the Environment has been extended. Residents have until January 18, 2019 to comment on the proposal in order to include those comments on the public record. To find out where to send your comments or questions, and get more information about the project, click on this link.
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.