With the Ontario city of Niagara-on-the-Lake set to open its new wastewater treatment facility as soon as March 2019, municipal officials have set aside $12 million in their latest budget as they weigh options around the decommissioning and remediation of the city’s old treatment plant and open-water sewage lagoons.
Niagara-on-the-Lake’s director of Water and Wastewater Services, Joe Tonellato, presented several options around the decommissioning project to the city’s Committee of the Whole on February 4, 2019, now that the city’s new $51.4-million plant on the same property is almost operational after years of cost overruns and construction delays that pushed back the opening of the plant from its original 2016 target.
In December of 2018, the city completed an environmental assessment to determine the preferred alternative for decommissioning of the existing Niagara-on-the-Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant. Public and Stakeholder input was requested as part of the decommissioning process.
Tonellato told the committee that the preferred option for lagoon decommissioning is to create a new riverine wetland.
“We’re basically filling in the lagoons, putting the creek back, essentially allowing for natural flooding of the area,” said Tonellato, who noted that they have approval from Parks Canada after a year-long process.
A local group called Harmony Residents Group has been pushing for years to have the sewage lagoons left untouched to gradually settle as natural wetlands. The group also wishes to see the main building on the property retained and reused as space for administration offices, an outdoor education centre, parking and other visitor facilities.
Regional officials, however, have long held the view that the lagoons cannot simply be left to revert into a wetland, as the discontinuation of water inflows from an operating treatment plant would see them effectively dry up and expose contaminated hot spots.
Further approval from council, as well as a public meeting, are still expected around the decommissioning process.