still cling to old
wastewater management thinking
...big pipes to centralized
treatment and "dilution as the solution
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RCOC Report - April, 2008
Calgary and Edmonton both
treat their wastewater to tertiary level. That means it is
treated to a level that allows swimming to take place.
The Ministry of the
Environment (MOE) allows Ottawa's centralized sewage
treatment plant, the Robert O. Pickard Environment Centre,
(ROPEC), formerly known as the Greens Creek Sewage
Treatment Plant, to process sewage only to the level of
secondary treatment, (shown in aerial photo, at right).
What makes matters even worse, is
that ROPEC receives tanker truck loads of toxic leachate from the Trail Road landfill site and
from outside cities such as Belleville. The city also pipes leachate
into ROPEC from the Carp Road dump.
Transporting toxic leachate by pipeline is technically "illegal"
because the toxic excedences do not conform to the city's
Sewer Use By-Law.
-Photo by Dan
view of ROPEC's secondary treatment sewage discharge plume
into the Ottawa River.
However, the MOE is quite obliging
in that regard. It simply allows the city to pay the MOE an
ongoing fine, to remain "legally non-compliant". (Or
is that "illegally compliant"?)
Landfill leachate is a
rather pernicious substance to send to a secondary
treatment plant, designed for sewage, because the plant is not equipped
to treat the leachate. Other than to achieve removal of a
few of the particulates, most of the toxic chemicals in the leachate
pass right through the ROPEC facility to be dumped,
UNTREATED, into the Ottawa River.
Everyone lives downstream...
Last year's exercise
regarding the DNA typing of E. coli samples showing up on
the Petrie Island waterfront seemed rather inane. There
was already little doubt in most minds, before any
testing, that the E. coli was of human origin: i.e.: from ROPEC.
Ottawa's medical officer of
health, Dr. David Salisbury is doing the right thing, by
demanding that the worsening problem of Ottawa River
pollution be properly addressed. (See The Ottawa Citizen
City to study cost of cutting Ottawa River pollution.)
Correcting Ottawa's dirty
pollution practices can only mean one thing. It means that
Ottawa --which isn't even heavily industrialized-- has to
get up to speed with cities like Calgary and Edmonton, and
conduct tertiary treatment of its sewage.
At the Rural Summit II
meeting (April 5th, 2008), a director of the Rural Council
of Ottawa-Carleton asked the Ottawa Director of Water and
Wastewater Services, Dixon Weir, P.Eng., why Ottawa is so
far behind cities like Calgary and Edmonton. Mr. Weir said that
Calgary, for example, is forced to produce tertiary quality
wastewater effluent, "because its receiver, the Bow River,
is too small to allow secondary-treated effluent to be put
into it". He added that, "the Ottawa
River is a large enough receiver that the MOE 'allows' the
city to discharge secondary-treated wastewater into it".
It is no small wonder that,
holds the unenviable reputation of being the second or
third worst polluter of waterways, in Ontario!
Hopefully, the public shift
of consciousness toward 'good environmental stewardship'
soon preclude the city's lazy, sub-standard and unethical
using "dilution as the solution to pollution".
Since "everyone lives
downstream", it is downright un-neighbourly for Ottawa to
dump raw-to-partially-treated sewage into the source water
of downstream communities. Many 'third world' countries
are developing better water stewardship and hygiene than
Given the additional fact
that the advanced sewage treatment and conveyance
technologies available today are often less costly
to build and to operate than
the antiquated methods currently in vogue with so many
city engineers and their
'independent' consultants, it
seems high time for the MOE to regulate that all
WW treatment processes, in the province, produce tertiary
quality effluent. Period.
World Bank report:
Sanitation and disease: health aspects of
and waste management.
“Those whose job is to select and design appropriate
systems for the collection and treatment of sewage …
must bear in mind that European and North American
practices do not represent the zenith of scientific
achievement, nor are they the product of a logical and
rational process. Rather, [they] are the product of
history, a history that started about 100 years ago when
a little was known about the fundamental physics and
chemistry of the subject and when practically no
applicable microbiology had been discovered… These
practices are not especially clever, nor logical, nor
completely effective – and it is not necessarily what
would be done today if these same countries had a chance
to start again.”
City plans to
magnify ROPEC's sewage-dysfunction: centrally.
The City of Kingston is
considerably smaller than Ottawa, yet it has three
wastewater treatment plants and it would like
more, the logic being, to treat sewage as locally as
possible. Ottawa tries to treat all of its sewage
centrally. That worked to a point, when sewage was only
brought in from communities within the Greenbelt.
Ottawa is markedly different
from all other cities in that it's broad arc
of undeveloped land around the urban core, the Greenbelt, imposes a
wide separation between
the water and wastewater services for the city-core,
WITHIN the Greenbelt, and services for all of the rapidly
growing suburban communities and scattered rural villages
OUTSIDE the Greenbelt.
As rural-village communities
further outside the Greenbelt become more polluted, with
their high-density well and septic systems, the city
should be forward-thinking enough to adopt modern local
(communal) water and wastewater support to replace
the outmoded systems and to accommodate growth. Villages such as
Metcalfe, Osgoode, North Gower, Manotick Kars and others should all have
updated communal systems, or be moving in that direction.
Munster is an extreme
demonstration of Ottawa-engineering foolhardiness.
Munster, as a separate community, was already receiving
communal water and wastewater servicing, but needed a
wastewater service upgrade, in the form of a new communal treatment plant. That was available
at a fixed price bid of $3.8-Million.
Instead of implementing the obvious on-site upgrade, city
engineers installed a forcemain that presently directs raw
sewage --under pressure-- through the
drinking water of another community (Richmond),
creating an unnecessary, built-in, contamination risk to
1100 private shallow wells and placing 5,000 residents in
constant harm's way. They have produced a virtual 'ticking time
bomb' waiting to explode. Eventual cost?
Please explain the logic of
that one, Mr. Weir!
If the city gets its way,
engineering folly and history will soon be repeated in the
Village of Manotick. A communal
wastewater treatment system with small bore piping could
immediately handle all of the present requirements of Hillside Gardens, Main Street commercial and
other institutional needs, without invasive trench digging, and
without the sort of trauma to
local businesses caused by a 'Bank Street-style upheaval'
for installation of the big
Also, the fully scalable and
expandable features of a communal system would very adequately
enable it to
all of the future expansion plans of Minto and other builders in
a phased, orderly and cost-effective build-out fashion.
Conversely, the 'big pipe'
option requires immediate and full build-out to take
place, if it is to avoid the type of failure
experienced by the $38-Million, turned $55-Million, debacle known as the South
Ottawa Collector. (Ref:
Ottawa Citizen, columnist,
Randall Denley, has more information on problems with the
use of old pipeline technology, and its higher cost, in his April 5th, 2008
27M down the drain...
A long-time Manotick
resident's "Letter to the Editor", (The Ottawa Citizen -
April 13th, 2008), expresses the common sense view of
a great many of the residents:
Manotick 'Big pipe' a foolish venture
How bloated can the white
elephant become ...before it explodes?
The concept of having a single
centralized failure-prone monstrosity for a sewage treatment plant
is really quite primitive. The hydro blackout on August 14, 2003
caused four straight days of full City of Ottawa raw sewage
discharge into the Ottawa River, followed by at least another
three weeks of raw-with-partially-treated sewage being
discharged while the ROPEC facility gradually worked its way back on
line. All of the outlying communities that should be
served with communal systems, in the future, could easily
switch over to small generator back-up power, in such
cases, and would carry on without event --while ROPEC will continue to have its
City engineers have
repeatedly tried to discredit advanced or innovative
wastewater treatment technologies that are working well in
this province and around the world. (See:
by city) The most commonly used slur, is that these
technologies are "experimental" and
therefore cannot be relied upon.
Interestingly, a 1975 Report to the US Congress
pointed to significant performance and cost advantages
of the Rotating Biological Contactor (RBC) technology over
the Activated Sludge system. It is worth noting that RBC
technology is an integral part of the process used at
Manotick's Village Walk, while the less-efficient
Activated Sludge process is the treatment method used at
technologies, around the globe, are reliably and
efficiently producing tertiary quality effluent, at
a reduced cost, the
largest and most reckless 'EXPERIMENT' of all ...is ROPEC,
The City of Ottawa
is concentrating all of it wastewater treatment into a
single dysfunctional facility --without back-up
safety-- and is producing lower-quality effluent with
each costly addition. THAT'S EXPERIMENTAL!
The city is
currently seeking $60-Million in funding for a containment/digester
tank to theoretically reduce the current volumes of raw sewage bypasses into the Ottawa
River during periods of heavy rainfall. The expansion is
additionally intended to be a dumping area for toxic waste material,
(hydrated aluminum oxide slurries with entrained metallic
and inorganic forms), from the Britannia and Lemieux Island water
Over six months ago, the MOE ordered the city to cease
dumping this toxic waste directly into the Ottawa River
because it was causing a broadening fish-kill zone, downstream.
The city has been
constantly out of compliance all of this time, and will
continue to be so well into the future. The $60-Million
plant is designed to turn
the slurry portion of the toxic material into "bio-solids" -- for farm-field application.
The remaining liquid phase will simply pass through ROPEC,
untreated, to be re-introduced into the Ottawa River.
Is there not
something fundamentally dishonest with the strategy of keeping
a portion of that specific toxin out of the Ottawa River ...by
putting it into our food chain, then returning the
remainder to the Ottawa River, and pretending it isn't
The Regional Official Plan used to
environmental concepts, i.e.: of treating waste close to where it is created,
avoiding watershed transfers of ground water,
use modern and innovative technologies and promoting communal water and wastewater treatment
systems for outlying communities.
Most of that wisdom has been
removed from the city's latest, dumbed-down, Official Plan.
The city is tied to
archaic wastewater management models of a different era.
Unfortunately, we will continue to
experience serious degradation in the quality of our waterways, the
health of our environment and the quality of life of Ottawa
citizens, as long as our city engineers continue with failing to
implement the modern technological wastewater management advances of their profession.
sewer-gas stink in Richmond lands city four more charges