York Regional Council earmarks $3B for major water infrastructure work

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Ontario’s York Regional Council has earmarked $3.1 billion over the next decade to build out and maintain its water and wastewater infrastructure, with a number of substantial water projects already underway.

The most high-profile ongoing projects include the upgrades at the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant and the twinning of the primary trunk sewer as part of the York Durham Primary Sewage System.

“Water and wastewater servicing and the ability to access clean safe drinking water is essential for building healthy communities,” announced Wayne Emmerson, York Region chair and CEO, in a statement. “Implementing and maintaining vital Public Works infrastructure supports an increasing need for system capacity related to planned growth and ensures the existing water and wastewater system is maintained in a state of good repair,” Emmerson added.

New investments include $268 million for water and wastewater infrastructure in the 2023 budget to deliver capacity needed for growth and ensure existing water and wastewater system reliability.

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Other notable water projects underway for the region include the design of additional water and wastewater projects in the Township of King; wastewater servicing construction in the cities of Richmond Hill and Markham in advance of the Yonge North Subway Extension; and the design of the Sutton Water Resource Recovery Facility expansion in the Town of Georgina.

The Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant treats wastewater from 80% of the residents and businesses in York Region and from everyone in the Town of Ajax and the City of Pickering in Durham Region through a shared contract between the two regions. Construction of new outfall diffusers at the Pickering plant was completed in September 2022, as local officials work to unlock the plant’s full capacity of 630 megalitres per day.

An outfall class environmental assessment completed in 2013 recommended optimizing the existing processes at Duffin Creek to enhance phosphorus removal. To approach full capacity, the plant’s annual average effluent total phosphorus concentration must be approximately 0.5 mg/L. Construction of the Phosphorus Reduction Action Plan upgrades at the plant began in 2022 and are scheduled for completion by fall 2024.

The plant’s wastewater operators recently won the Operations Challenge at the Water Environment Association of Ontario conference in 2022.

In celebration of National Public Works Week, Region of Durham staff are offering a tour of the Duffin Creek plant on May 27.

Twinning of the primary trunk sewer has also made headlines for years now. The York Durham Sewage System Primary Trunk Sanitary Sewer Municipal Class Environmental Assessment and preliminary design assignment was awarded in 2022. The region wants to provide “critical redundancy” for the existing primary trunk sanitary sewer system to increase operational flexibility in managing flows and undertaking inspections and rehabilitation as required now and over the lifetime of the pipe.

Also in 2022, a provincial panel recommended connecting the Upper York service area to the York Durham Sewage System and Duffin Creek Plant by upsizing a new sewer with a series of pumping stations, forcemains and sewers.

A recent analysis of 80 regional water system internal audits over 2022 “confirmed high levels of conformance, demonstrating system maturity,” according to the regional council.

Earlier in May, York scored 100% on its provincial drinking water quality standards and inspections in the Ontario Chief Drinking Water Inspector’s Annual Report.

“York Region’s dedicated and professional water operations staff work around the clock monitoring and testing our drinking water systems so residents can be assured our water is safe and clean,” announced Emmerson. “These top scores are a direct result of our ongoing commitment to safety, compliance and continual improvement.”

Water is delivered through a two-tiered water system in York Region. It operates and maintains 15 drinking water supply systems, which provide water to nine local cities and towns.

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