From the Ottawa Citizen, April 5, 2007



City councillors are set to approve next week a $27million sewage pipeline that will serve 376 homes and businesses in Manotick. Itís an astoundingly expensive misuse of old technology thatís all but certain to guarantee the big expansion of the village that residents have opposed.

Thereís no doubt that residents in Manotickís Hillside Gardens neighbourhood and the village core need sewers, but the cost per household of a pipeline to the main sewer system has always been prohibitive. It still is, but the city is using some fancy accounting to make the big pipe plan seem reasonable.

First, the city makes $14.9 million of the cost disappear by assuming that it will be picked up by other Manotick residents who decide to hook up later, or by the owners of new houses. The only problem with this is that other people in Manotick have not yet indicated that they do want to join the sewer system. To cover this portion of the sewer bill, the city will be relying heavily on development in Minto-owned lands, the same development it is prepared to go to the Ontario Municipal Board to delay.

Having cut the nominal cost to just over $12 million, the city then assumes that half that cost should rightly be borne by other city sewer ratepayers because some of the pipes will cross intersections or pieces of city land. It seems a generous allowance. The remaining $6 million will actually be paid by the homeowners and businesses who want the sewer system. In all, the people this sewer is being built for will pay just $6 million of the projectís $27-million cost. The rest will be paid by you, or maybe by someone else sometime in the future. RURAL SUMMIT II:Including some associated road and sidewalk work, the whole cost of the Manotick project is $35.2 million, of which $29.7 million will be debt.

The worst part is, the city has a much more modern solution staring it in the face, right in Manotick. The city owns a small sewage treatment plant that serves a 68-unit townhouse development in the village using technology from Ottawa company Seprotech Systems. It treats sewage in a small building that looks like a garage and discharges waste water that is cleaner than the cityís own sewage treatment plantís effluent, says Seprotech president Martin Hauschild. The existing plant has the capacity to serve the core of Manotick, Hauschild says. He also contends that his company could supply sewage treatment for Hillside Gardens at about half the per-house cost of the cityís big pipe plan.
Dixon Weir, the cityís water manager, told a city committee that Seprotechís Manotick plant often fails to meet provincial effluent standards. The city is combating its own standards woes.

Seprotech has several plants in southern Ontario and communities around Toronto and is now expanding internationally, Hauschild says. In total, it has 3,000 water and wastewater plants installed around the world. The company offers a practical and relatively inexpensive way to treat sewage in communities that are remote from central services, but Ottawa has never been interested.

City water manager Dixon Weir told a city committee this week that the Seprotech plant often fails to meet provincial effluent standards. In an interview, he said the plant has had trouble meeting standards since it opened in 2005. And yet, Seprotech had an independent consultant do a study using the cityís own numbers showing no problems in 2005 or 2006. There were some problems with phosphorus amounts in late 2007.

If the technology worked for more than two years, itís odd that it would suddenly fail just before the city wanted to argue that the plant is no answer to Manotickís troubles. Seprotech says the higher discharges followed a city attempt to "test" the plantís capacity by loading it up with a truckload of sewage.

West Manotick Community Association president Brian Tansley says people in the village favoured an onsite treatment option and that a local company other than Seprotech had made a pitch to the city. That option was rejected by city staff.

Itís a bit hypocritical for the city to condemn the private companyís sewage technology. The cityís own sewage treatment has failed to meet provincial standards for years. The city was ordered to stop dumping contaminants from its water plants into the Ottawa River back in 2003, but is still struggling to comply with the provincial order. The fixup project, which costs $85 million, is more than six months behind schedule. City sewers downtown still discharge raw sewage into the river during heavy rains. Now councillors want to know how much it would really cost to make the system work.

But back in Manotick, the city wonít even consider technology from Seprotech or its competitors, even though its discharge is cleaner than what the city itself can produce using the kind of environmentally friendly Canadian technology that governments always say they want.

As the community associationís Tansley puts it, the city is rejecting technology that has "lower cost and far less environmental impact" in favour of an outmoded sewer pipe. Wednesday, councillors have one last chance to get this right.


Contact at 613-596-3756
RANDALL DENLEY or by e-mail,


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