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Georgina mayor seeks Trudeau’s support with Holland Marsh phosphorus recycling plant

Last fall the federal government committed $16 million to the $40-million project that has been stalled
Oct. 12, 2021
Natasha Philpott

Georgina Mayor Margaret Quirk has sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting his support for the Holland Marsh phosphorus recycling facility.

The proposed facility will reduce phosphorus runoff from the Holland Marsh agricultural area into the Holland River and Lake Simcoe by up to 85 per cent, removing an estimated 2.5 tonnes per year.

The facility would be built on the Holland River between Bradford and King.

"This is an important issue that we want recognized by the federal government, who has committed funds to it," said Quirk. "Collaboration is key and by sending it to both federal and provincial levels, we want all partners at the table for this project."

Last fall the federal government committed $16 million to the $40-million project. But the project is on hold because York Region was planning to include its $25-million portion as part of its overall Upper York Sewage Solution (UYSS) costs, which the province has paused indefinitely.

"We see this is as a separate issue from the Upper York Sewage Solution and it should be dealt with apart from the issues surrounding servicing," said Quirk.

She noted the concern that the passing of the York Region Wastewater Act, introduced in June 2021, would put on hold the environmental assessment application for the UYSS, thus delaying the project.

“This project is of great importance as we need to be reducing the phosphorus load into Lake Simcoe. The health of Lake Simcoe is paramount, and we must make improvements to its health both for the lake’s ecosystem and as a source of drinking water," said Quirk.

Bradford Councillor Jonathan Scott put forward a motion urging the project move forward that was passed by Bradford West Gwillimbury council this past summer, while Georgina councillor approvided a similar motion by Councillor Dave Neeson.

"The Holland Marsh basin collects runoff from across our region. Farmers have done their part to ensure their activities are sustainable, and we need to have their backs and ensure we protect our watershed," explained Scott.

The project has since made headlines with Durham and Innisfil also passing motions endorsing the project.

"Clearly, momentum is growing and like-minded councillors and area elected officials, as well as agricultural and environmental stakeholders, agree that we need all levels of government to work together collaboratively to deliver this much needed facility in order to protect Lake Simcoe, the Holland River and our watershed," said Scott. "The facility is a tangible way to deliver a win for the lake. This isn't about politics or finger pointing to various levels of government. It's about getting something done to protect our lake."

Neeson was pleased to see the letter from Quirk, and hopes it will help get the project moving forward.

"Councillor Scott and I are pleased that Mayor Quirk is joining a growing coalition of watershed elected officials, citizens and stakeholders - from all political persuasions and walks of life – to come together in a meaningful way to demonstrably protect and improve the health of Lake Simcoe," he said. "I am also looking forward to further correspondence in this regard to the provincial minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and as such, Councillor Scott and I are looking forward to further dialogue in order to move this much needed project ahead in a collaborative manner."

Quirk's letter was also sent to the minister of Infrastructure and Communities, the minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Premier Doug Ford, the Regional Municipality of York, Lake Simcoe municipalities, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, Lake Simcoe MPs and MPPs, "with the hope that by working together, we can make this project a reality."