Where Is Niagara’s Regional Government On A New Wastewater Treatment System For Niagara-on-the-Lake?

By Randy Busbridge

The Niagara Region has asked Queen’s Park for financial assistance to develop a new wastewater treatment plant for Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Good news if you’re worried about our current odorous facility, which is outdated and rapidly approaching capacity.

The sewage lagoons on federal parks lands in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Not so good news if you are a fan of due process and government transparency.

In the spring of 2009, the Region began a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment process in order to evaluate alternatives.  The plan was to look at several options, most of which involved the construction of a new sewage treatment facility in a new location – conveniently making way for Project Niagara, the controversial music festival proposed for the existing site.

One option was to upgrade the existing facility in situ, which was identified as the preferred option in a 2008 Engineering report.  The alternative was deemed to cost the least, and have the least impact on both residents and the environment.

In June 2009, the Region held a Public Information Centre set up as part of the Environmental Assessment process.  Handouts from that session explained the process, and stated alternatives would be assessed based on:  socio-economic impact; environmental impact; an archaeological assessment; and the application of formal evaluation criteria.  The results of that analysis were to be brought to a second Public Information Centre in the fall of 2009, and to be reviewed with various government agencies, before final recommendations were taken to Regional Council.

The second Public Information Centre never happened.  No report has been taken to regional council or the region’s public works committee.

Yet the Region is now asking for financial assistance to develop a new wastewater treatment facility – pursuing one of the options that vacates the current site and makes way for Project Niagara.

Is this the best option?  How does it stack up against the other alternatives in terms of cost, environmental impact, and impact to residents?

We don’t know because the Region has not completed its own process, and is now pursuing a backroom deal that will enable a music festival hundreds of Niagara voters have said they don’t want.

Excuses will doubtless be made:  that Parks Canada wanted the Region to vacate the current site (indeed they do, as they are in full support of Project Niagara); that they have acted to keep costs down for Niagara taxpayers (except of course that we all pay Provincial taxes, and are probably looking at a more expensive option); and that relocating will help to open up some waterfront to the public (nonsense, since neither Parks Canada nor Project Niagara have explained how – if at all – they will make the property accessible for anyone other than concert goers.

If the Region is serious about public access to the waterfront, it should be working with the provincial and federal governments to establish a park on this site.

Instead, Regional Council’s support “in principle” for Project Niagara has turned into explicit action that could enable the festival – without public consultation, and without debate at Council.

So much for democracy.

(Randy Busbridge is a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake and member of the Harmony Residents Group, an organization of citizens in that community pressing to have the federal lands that include the lagoons transformed into an public ‘eco park’.)

(Click on www.niagaraatlarge.com for Niagara At Large for more news and commentary on matters of interest and concern to our greater binational Niagara region.)

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9 responses to “Where Is Niagara’s Regional Government On A New Wastewater Treatment System For Niagara-on-the-Lake?

  1. David Hennessey

    It seems the Regional executive has usurped the council and is proceeding with an agenda of its own, to promote the ill conceived festival.
    Project Niagara has no chance of financial success yet will divide the market and pull down existing events such as Shaw. Not much of a legacy for the retiring regional chair.

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  2. One of the worst aspects of this scheme, is that if approved, the new sewage lagoon would be built on land that is currently re-naturalazing to a healthy Carolinian forest. This is wrong because we need to reforest all of our vacant public lands in Niagara to increase forest cover. This is especially important here since with global warming and climate change storms will be more severe on Lake Ontario. The best way to buffer against such impacts is to have bigger and better forests.

    The situation with Project Niagara is basically the same with lands that Brock University owns adjacent to the Glenridge Landfill Naturalization site. These lands, some 57 acres in extent should be reforested to buffer the adjacent forest on the Niagara Escarpment, currently protected by Niagara Escarpment zoning. It would be appropriate to name this restored forest in honour of one of Brock’s great Proefessors of Urban and Environmental Studies, the late Dr. Robert Hoover. This proposal has been recent rejected by the St. Cahtarines Planning Department in their draft version of the St. Catharines Official Plan. People should come out to St. Cahtarines Council on June 7th to tell the St. Catharines City Council at the Public Meeting on the Official Plan that they want this area restored as a Carolinian Forest.

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  3. Fred Williams

    Busbridge writes, Bacher comments – the word masturbatory comes to mind!

    History tells us that the sewage lagoons were installed in 1966 as a “temporary” measure!

    Now almost 50 years later it would be inappropriate to place them within 400 metres of an existing subdivision – Garrison Village – and illegal to expand and/or upgrade them in place. Never mind that there is no available land at the present location to do so!
    If the writer is correct, and Parks Canada wants the treatment facility removed from the present locale, then they are doing the right thing. It should not be there – in present form or any form. Just ask residents living across the road who must endure the smell in summer.
    Should the Region attempt to “fix” the facility in situ – lawsuits would be a certainty!

    Forget about the shadowy Project Niagara conspiracy and focus on the realities. The Region cannot use the current location, and does not have the money needed in any case.
    I somehow doubt Busbridge and company are going to put up the millions of dollars required to cover the funding shortfall – and I would be dismayed should my water and sewer rates be increased when an alternative funding source is available.

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  4. Fred Williams

    Now Mr.Hennessey joins the fray, calling the Project Niagara “ill conceived” but proffers nothing to bolster this opinion.
    Suggesting it will “pull down existing events such as Shaw” yet the Shaw Festival board fully endorses the concept!
    What goes here! Can anyone say anything – and offer it as fact – substantiated or not?

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  5. George Jardine

    I am familiar with sewage lagoons I am in sight of one in Stwvensville,the one in NOTL is responsible for making the lake shore off limits in the summertime because of E-Coli,the WHO does not endorse sewage lagoons for third world countries yet our Region loves them they are a milk cow for them ,charge us full price for sewage treatment yet provide nothing but a hole in the ground. they are a gold mine for them, Canada specializes in low cost sewage treatment plants and builds them in Georgia USA but will not use them in Niagara, what a lying bunch of hypocrites our Region is!!!

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  6. Barbara Morrison

    There Region has recognized that there is a need for a new sewage disposal facility in NOTL. It will be built whether PN goes ahead or not. It is a necessity and a fact of life. How the Region is dealing with the process is the problem it seems to me.

    Furthermore, if it is inappropriate to have a new sewage treatment facility 400 metres from Garrison Village, then is it appropriate to have on the same piece of property an outdoor amphitheatre with fixed and lawn seating for up to 10,000 people over the busy summer months for 40 outdoor concerts, with parking lots for 1,500 vehicles and washroom facilities for the crowds as well. All this on busy two lane Lakeshore Road, across from the same Garrison Village. Do you have any idea how much of this land will be required for just for the parking lots? How about the exhaust fumes from buses and cars and trucks in and out of the grounds? How about the litter, traffic control, extra security services? It seems like a very expensive and inefficient way to get a new sewage treatment plant.

    As for the Shaw Festival, they just received another boost from the federal government for 2010 in the amount of $2.6 million dollars. The Shaw Festival is very nice but obviously it can not stand on its own two feet and needs all kinds of subsidies, fund raising, and what would it do without its volunteers. PN will be needing more of the same. One more mouth to feed so to speak from the same pot. Then there is the 900 seat concert facility being built in St. Catharines, and Chorus Niagara, the new hospital, the new community centre, and the list goes on.

    Are taxpayers willing to anti-up more tax dollars to suppprt a fnancially unsustainble and environmentally disastrous project such as PN for 40 outdoor weather dependent concerts, dreamed up by the TSO and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, both of which are also heavily dependent on government grants, volunteers and fundraising.

    There must be a better use for this lovely property and the Region should get on with the job of planning and budgeting for the new sewage treatment plant as they were doing before PN entered the act.

    NOTL residents should also make themselves aware of just what is being planned for the Parks Canada lands by reading the feasibility study. The amphitheatre is just the beginning of this very expensive and expansive project.

    Parks Canada should be attending to its mandate which is to preserve, protect and enhance the properties entrusted to its care.

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  7. Fred Williams

    I think Barbara Morrison must be a pseudonym for Phyllis Stein, her hatred of the arts is so apparent!

    How absurd to compare a stinking, broken lagoon system to a state of the art, 21st century Music Park! Give your head a shake.

    As for arts funding and taxes, Canada lags behind almost every other civilized nation in support for the arts – the Shaw festival receives a less than 8% of its’ revenue from government and returns many times that in taxes through employment, sales tax and economic spin-offs – Ms.Morrison clearly has no understanding of the value of the arts or of basic economic theory!

    And finally, rhyming off a litany of paranoid and unsubstantiated fear induced negativity while ignoring the many benefits such a project could bring to the entire Niagara Region is just NIMBYism in disguise!

    The Region would be foolish to throw away the opportunity of problem-solving infrastructure funding, especially when it goes hand-in-hand with the development of a fantastic new cultural development.

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  8. Barbara Morrison

    Well, Mr. Williams, thanks for the personal attack. Obviously you are a real gentleman. I simply believe there is a need for a new sewage treatment facility, it will be built regardless of PN, and 400 metres from Garrison Village for EITHER is not a good idea for various obvious reasons. I believe also as Mr. Busbridge points out in due process and government transparency, both of which have been seriously lacking here. I also think that people should read the PN feasibiltiy study for themselves and become aquainted with the study and the facts before jumping on the PN bandwagon. As someone who does like and attends many things cultural, and appreciates creativity, and is involved with a very creative group in town and volunteers for many things, I know that we here in the Niagara Region are very blessed with things cultural. Just where is the problem solving infrastructure money going to come from, from trees? There is only one source for any infrastructure money, or fundraising, or ticket purchases, the taxpayer. To build another SEASONAL outdoor (for 17 weeks) concert facility, dependant on weather, to the tune of $76.5 million dollars and counting in this tiny town doesn’t seem to me to be a good use of taxpayer money.

    Goldie Semple agreed with me. I seem to remember her as a great actress and Shaw performer.

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  9. Before there was a temporary sewage lagoon, there was a viable wetland. If the wastewater disposal plant must go elsewhere, then restore the lagoons, etc to wetlands and naturally regenerating Carolinian forest and allow the natural regeneration to extend on both sides of Two Mile Creek.
    Land less than 400 metres from residential areas is not a suitable location for either smelly sewage systems or international music festivals. That anyone should wish to locate either on this site defies common sense.

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