Jim Robb's letter on the King City Big Pipe

Dear Premier and Minister:

Will MOE Director Make a Mockery of the Premier's Source Protection, ORM and Walkerton Promises?


The MOE Director Central Region is considering the approval of a Big Sewer Pipe Construction Plan that would allow the pumping of tens of billions of litres groundwater from the ORM aquifer system and the dumping of this precious groundwater into the Big Sewer Pipe and a few local streams.

The Premier's credibility was eroded when 6600 homes went ahead on the Moraine despite promises to the contrary.  The Premier's credibility will be seriously undermined if a de-watering permit for up to 66 Billion Litres of ORM groundwater pumping and dumping is issued by the MOE Director.

Will this Government be party to illegal Piece-mealing of the EA Review?

Many reasonable people and lawyers believe that York Region circumvented the EA Act and violated the Municipal Class EA process by piece-mealing the Big Pipe twinning and extension into several cursory Class EAs that do not fit within the Class EA process in terms of  their:

- large scale groundwater and surface water impacts;
- difficult to predict groundwater and surface water interactions and impacts;
- complicated, novel and incomplete ground water and surface water impact mitigation;

FRW wrote to the MOE via letters of April 7, 2004, January 20, 2004,  ...   and June 21, 2002 to request an individual EA for the overall YD sewer twinning.  

Under the former government, the MOE failed to adequately respond to repeated requests for a proper EA process and the EA Act was circumvented through piece-mealing and superficial Class EA reviews.  This led to the current problems.

Given York Region's record of serious environmental mistakes and misinformation about water resource impacts, the current government should not be complicit in this ongoing abuse of the EA Act and the Class EA process.  An individual EA for the overall twinning and extension should be required.

The current Class EA approvals are based on mis-information and abuse of the Class EA process and they are vulnerable to legal challenge.

IF MOE permits Massive Aquifer De-watering, it could become Co-liable with York Region for Fisheries Act Violations

Phase I of the 16th Avenue Trunk Sewer was undertaken without a Fisheries Act authorization and the resulting harm to fish habitat is a breach of federal law that can carry fines of up to $300,000/day.  On September 24, 2004, a court case will commence on the 16th Avenue Sewer (Phase I) harm to fish habitat.

Under these circumstances, if MOE issues a massive aquifer de-watering permit in the absence of a federal Fisheries Act authorization for Phase II, MOE is risking joint liability with York Region for the inevitable damage to fish habitat that will occur due to the unproved, incomplete and, in all probability, ineffective mitigation scheme.

There are Alternatives to the Big Gravity Pipe

I spoke with a friend who is a senior waste-water engineer with a large Ontario municipality.  He outlined a number of alternatives to the building a big gravity sewer pipe through the sensitive, high-yield, ORM aquifer system.

One alternative is to build gravity sewers in non-aquifer glacial till soils above the water table and then use a combination of pumping stations and
reservoirs in areas that require uphill sewage movement and well-designed drop shafts to connect to lower pipe systems.  The pumping station(s) can be designed with reservoirs, triplicate pumps, back-up generators, and alarms to avoid, detect and correct problems such as equipment failure and power outages.

Such shallow sewage systems may have higher operating costs but they are easier to access and repair and they do not require a Moraine Drain.

Restoring 3 to 5 Years Capacity in the Existing Big Pipe

This engineer also indicated that it is possible to renovate older sewer pipes through various techniques (e.g. slip-lining, pressure grouting) to avoid infiltration of stormwater and groundwater.     Since up to 20% of the existing Big Sewer Pipe flows are from infiltration of groundwater and surface water, remedial actions to repair this leakage (and potential outward leakage of bacteria laden sewage) would restore at least a few additional years capacity in the Big Pipe and allow additional homes to be serviced by the existing Big Pipe while a better Big Pipe design is found through a proper EA.

Impacts on Duffins Sewage Treatment Plan and Lake Ontario?

Despite York Region's dire warnings about sewage overflows, the mitigation plan for Phase II of the 16th avenue Big Pipe project calls for dumping of  Billions of litres of fresh groundwater into the sewer as part of the de-watering discharge plan.   If the sewer is already over capacity, how can it handle millions of litres of groundwater?

The dumping of so much cold, deep groundwater into the Big Pipe is a waste of a precious resource and it could have implications for the microbial populations and the effectiveness of the Duffins Sewage Treatment Plant.