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'There is no plan B': Newmarket lacks water capacity alternatives to controversial sewage plant
Oct. 6, 2021

York Region is nearing completion on plans to improve Newmarket’s water system but cannot make up the capacity gap caused by delays to the Upper York Sewage Solutions plant.

The region is finishing up its water and wastewater master plan, charting infrastructure improvements projected for the next 40 years, including Upper York, the proposed wastewater facility on Lake Simcoe. York staff presented the plan to Newmarket council Oct. 4.

The region is projecting Upper York could be completed in 2029, if the province approves its environmental assessment soon after years of delay. But with only six years of water capacity left available for Newmarket's current growth, the region is still seeking a stop-gap and alternatives.

“There is no plan B,” water and wastewater plan advisor Tracy Carrigan said. “We’re doing everything we can to bridge the gap in anticipation of some sort of decision from the province.”

The presentation highlighted improvements such as forcemain twinning and pumping station upgrades to come for Newmarket. The plan also includes an inflow and infiltration reduction strategy, which features developers making their water systems more efficient to increase capacity.

The region and province have discussed the proposal for several years, with the province not deciding on Upper York’s environmental assessment for more than five years. The current government introduced legislation this year to pause approval for the project, with the intent to create a task force to examine all options. At issue are objections from the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation, environmental groups and other municipalities to sewage going into Lake Simcoe.

Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said the province is rumoured to favour a southern solution to increase capacity at an existing Durham Region plant, but that would require a new application process, delaying things further.

He has also speculated that the province might be waiting for the next provincial election in June 2022 to resolve the controversial issue.

“We’re in a very constrained atmosphere,” Taylor said. “It’s their responsibility to make a choice even with the political challenge.”

Acting director of infrastructure asset management Wendy Kemp said every municipality has targets to meet under the region’s inflow and infiltration reduction strategy. Once six years have passed, she said that the program is the only way for Newmarket to get any additional capacity besides Upper York Sewage Solutions.

Taylor said it is critical for all York municipalities to fulfill targets under the program.

“In a constrained environment, you want to explore options fully,” Taylor said, “because there’s little new allocation to go around.”