LETTER: It will take all levels of government to put in place the Holland Marsh phosphorus recycling facility

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Councilors Bradford and Georgina are working together to push for a blocked facility that would be part of the solution to reducing phosphorus entering the Lake Simcoe watershed

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During the fall season, you may have read the efforts we are making as municipalities in our regions to set up a proposed “phosphorus recycling facility”. We want to highlight why this project is needed, the story and where we are going from here.

In 2009, the provincial government introduced its Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, a call to action to ensure the health and longevity of our watershed.

A central objective of this strategy is to reduce phosphorus pollution in the lake to just 44 tonnes per year.

Instead, phosphorus pollution continued to increase.

Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient, but in excessive amounts it fertilizes aquatic plant life, such as algae, which drown sunlight and oxygen in the lake and rivers, threatening fish habitats and diluting the quality of water. the water.

For several years, we have had the idea of ​​trying to filter this excess phosphorus from the watershed. Farmers have actually done a great job in reducing any runoff from farming activities. But, given the typography of our region, a lot of phosphorus flows into the Holland Marsh basin. There we already have pumping systems in place to manage the channels through the drainage scheme.

At the same time, York Region had a stalled proposal to build a wastewater treatment plant that would discharge the treated effluent into the lake. For various reasons, this project was not approved by the previous provincial Liberal government.

When Premier Doug Ford and the Conservatives were elected, York Region thought they could reformulate their plan and get it approved. To make the project more attractive, they included a $ 40 million proposal to build the phosphorus recycling facility in the swamp, as environmental compensation to their overall Upper York sewer system.

Despite this, the Ford government indefinitely suspended the Upper York project this fall as its government’s top legislative priority, given environmental concerns over the proposal.

So, we both met in August at Jackson’s Point to try to find a way to move the beneficial recycling facility forward, despite the overall status of the Upper York program.

We have had extensive discussions with officials in Ottawa, Queen’s Park and with staff in York Region, as well as with mayors, councilors, MPs and MPPs. A wide variety of stakeholder groups, some of whom disagree on other topics, have also come together to support the project: Lake Simcoe Watch, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Holland Marsh Growers’ Association, Liberal MPs and Conservatives, the provincial Green Party leader.

We have prepared a motion that clearly states what we are looking for: the phosphorus recycling facility delivered, with the help of all levels of government working together.

This motion (or a substantially similar version) has now been passed by the following watershed municipalities: Barrie, Brock, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Innisfil, Georgina, East Gwillimbury, King Township, Ramara. As Georgina Mayor Margaret Quirk said, this represents an unprecedented unity among municipalities in the region.

So what happens next?

If we do not deliver this phosphorus recycling facility, the problem will only worsen as our region continues to grow, even though we are able to implement our smart growth targets to stop urban sprawl by favor the more affordable and sustainable kind of intensification than we need, especially near transit centers.

To date, we have had productive meetings with the province, through our MPP and Environment Minister Dave Piccini, and we are optimistic that they will help us put this facility in place to protect the lake. Simcoe.

The federal government has confirmed its commitment to complete the project and has pledged to fund up to $ 16 million, or about 40% of the cost of constructing the $ 40 million facility.

That leaves a gap of about $ 24 million, a gap that we hope all levels of government working together will be able to close. If we can get an agreement in principle on the funding, then a proponent – whether it’s York Region or some other local entity – would then have to undertake an environmental assessment and a detailed design of the facility.

Since 2009, we’ve all been operating under a Lake Simcoe Protection Plan that calls for reducing phosphorus to just 44 tonnes. This installation will remove between 2.5 and 11 tonnes per year from the watershed. That’s not the whole solution, but it’s the biggest phosphorus reduction ever, and if there’s the political will, it can happen – and soon.

As Claire Malcolmson of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition said, “We have to do it.

How’s that for an early-year resolution?

Dave Neeson, Ward 3 Councilor, Georgina

Jonathan Scott, Ward 2 Councilor, Bradford West Gwillimbury


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