Village of Westport fined for Ontario Water Resources Act violation

Westport, Ontario's Snowfluent plant. ES&E Magazine file photo (1998).

The Corporation of the Village of Westport pleaded guilty to one offence and was fined $10,000 for operating a sewage treatment plant without adhering to conditions of ministry approval, contrary to the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA).

The Village has a population of approximately 700 residents and owns and operates a snowfluent sewage treatment plant. This pumps raw sewage during the winter months from two storage lagoons into towers fitted with nozzles, while adding compressed air to make snow.

According to the Recorder and Times, in winter the water from the second lagoon is sprayed through snow-making towers over a large field. The system was installed in 1996. Village clerk/treasurer Scott Bryce told the Recorder and Times that the system was increasingly challenged by climate change.

The Village operates the system under an Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) issued by the ministry. The Village is required to ensure that the sewage treatment plant and related equipment is properly operated and maintained.

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According to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, the winter of 2013/2014 was long and cold, ideal for making snowfluent in the Westport area. The Village failed to process enough snowfluent due to improper operation and a lack of maintenance. As a result, it found itself in an emergency situation in the spring, with lagoons in danger of overflowing and lacking the capacity for the spring, summer and fall months.

On April 25, 2014, the ministry issued an order permitting the Village to conduct a controlled discharge of sewage.

The matter was referred to the ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch and following an investigation charges were laid. On November 30, 2016, the Corporation of the Village of Westport was convicted of one offence, was fined $10,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $2,500 and was given one year to pay the fine.

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