Construction of a secondary wastewater treatment facility this summer aims to bring the small northwestern Ontario town of Red Rock, east of Thunder Bay, into compliance with legislation and lessen the impact of wastewater released into Nipigon Bay, a designated area of concern that connects to Lake Superior.
Following the 2006 closure of Red Rock’s paper mill, the primary employer for the population of less than 1,000, local officials have struggled to raise the $8 million required as their contribution towards the new $25.7-million secondary treatment facility.
In late April, however, the Ontario government announced it would be contributing $17.1 million to the project, with the federal government chipping in nearly $8.5 million to cover the remaining balance to replace the town’s current 43-year-old treatment facility.
“On behalf of the Township of Red Rock, I would like to thank the federal and provincial governments for investing in Red Rock’s Water Pollution Control Plant,” said Red Rock Mayor Gary Nelson, in a statement to media. “Today’s investment will allow Red Rock to be in compliance with existing provincial regulations and federal water quality regulations that will be enforced, starting in 2030. This investment will also provide the Township with a reliable wastewater system that will accommodate future growth and development,” added Nelson.
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According to a 2012 consultant analysis of the current Red Rock Wastewater Treatment Plant, built in 1975, wet weather has been causing sewer backups because of the reduction in outfall pipe size on the former mill property. Additionally, many of the components of the facility are now outdated, wrote Engineering Northwest Ltd. The current facility has a current rated capacity of 1,272 m3/d. The new proposed plant capacity is 900 m3/d.
Approximately 20% of the township population uses septic tanks.
A 2015 report from the Nipigon Bay Remedial Action Plan recommended delisting Nipigon Bay as a designated Area of Concern, but officials have been reluctant to do so prior to the completion of the new secondary treatment plant. The 2015 report recommended delisting due to a number of cleanup efforts over the years, including upgrades to the sewage plant in Nipigon, a water level plan in the Nipigon River and the removal of waste and debris from Clearwater Creek.