The $43.2 million wastewater treatment plant on Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake will not be operational by August, as announced last spring, but it's looking good for fall.
NOTL's regional councillor Gary Burroughs said work is moving along quickly. The tanks are now being filled with clean water, as the first part of the process of several different tests to ensure all equipment, which is fully automated, is working as it should.
He said if all goes according to plan sewage will be treated in the new plant by November.
Two official launches of the regional project, the first when politicians gathered on the site in 2012 to celebrate the funding for it, and then again in 2014 when construction began, set the opening date as December 2016. The completion date has delayed several times since then, mostly due to construction problems, including leaking tanks and cement peeling from the interior of the tanks, said Burroughs.
Last year, he told people in Garrison Village they would wake up at Christmas (2017) and be able to flush their toilets into the new treatment plant.
“That didn’t happen,” he said. He was then told it would be oeprational by August. That didn't happen either but he's confident it will be before this Christmas.
There are several law suits being discussed with subcontractors over blame for the delays, but the final project should come within what was budgeted, he said.
The plant will replace the existing Lakeshore Road facility 800 metres west of it, which has been operating at capacity for years, with overflows causing odour problems for neighbours.
A regional report said the new plant is expected to increase treatment capacity by 40 per cent.
The cost, shared by the federal, provincial and regional governments, includes upgrades to three pumping stations, and that part of it has been completed, said Burroughs. Once the first round of tests are satisfactorily completed it will take a few days to divert the sewage from the three pumping station, followed by a couple of weeks of testing the effluent (clean, treated sewage) to be sure it's being cleaned properly.
At that point, the region will divert some of the output from the new treatment plant to the two lagoons at the current facility, so they remain full and working until they are removed, which will keep the odour down for neighbours, he said.
There is also the ability to divert more effluent to the lagoons if necessary — if it isn't meeting provincial standards, he said, “but we're not expecting any problems.”
“So far everything's been coming along well, and the leaks in the tanks have been corrected. There are some small issues, such as siding on the outside, that can be dealt with later.”
He's talked recently to one of the Regional managers onsite, who feels very confident they've fixed all the major problems, he said.
“We're at a turning point now, filling the main tanks. Everything's moving along. By the end of November we should be making sure the effluent is clear and the plant is working according to design and meeting provincial standards.”
“The flag-waving,” he said, referring to an official opening, “will be as soon as the province says so. And that will be this year.”
The region is still working on a plan for decommissioning the two lagoons, and after several reports and meetings on preferred alternatives has “almost” come to a decision about one that satisfies Parks Canada, which owns the land, and NOTL residents.
The Region has “tentatively” allocated $10 million in its 2019 capital budget for the work to be completed, Burroughs said.
“The decision hasn't been made, but it's close. The proposal that's being considered looks like part of it would be a constructed wetland – that's what I'm counting on, and the town really needs to demand it when it comes to public meetings with Parks Canada and the Region.”
The constructed wetland would be for educational purposes, to show the public how it works, and the water in it should be clean – cleaner than Two Mile Creek, said Burroughs.
The proposal, if accepted, will have paths wandering through the area, which will be open to the public, “at least that's what I'm hoping,” he said.
There was a time when the site was being considered for a large music festival, called Project Niagara, but that was scuttled when the public – and Burroughs – fought against it due to concerns about negative effects on the environment, destruction of the property and fears of huge increases in traffic and parking.
The Harmony Group was formed by residents opposed to the music festival, and the current proposal is something they've been working on with Parks Canada every since, said Burroughs.