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Hawkesbury faces fine of $25,000 to $6 million
Tribune-Express, vendredi 16 novembre 2007 Hawkesbury faces fine of $25,000 to $6 million par Richard Mahoney The town of Hawkesbury could be fined anywhere from $25,000 to $6 million if it is convicted for alleged environmental infractions. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has charged the municipality, arguing that the town has broken the law because its sewage treatment facility has failed to meet government regulations. The case is being heard in the Provincial Offences Court in L’Orignal. Fines for such offences range from $25,000 for a first offence to $6 million. Chronic problems at the Main Street treatment facility, which is operated by the Ontario Clean Water Agency, came to a head recently when the ministry’s Cornwall office took legal action against the town. The ministry contends that as the owner of the sewage works, the town failed to comply with the certificate of approval issued for the system, where effluent exceeds provincial norms. If the town is convicted, the penalty would be decided by the court based on submissions from the prosecutor and defence counsel, and would depend on the severity and consequences of the offence, says Ernie Larocque, of the ministry’s investigations and enforcement branch. Fines on the lower end of the range are more typical, says Larocque, who adds that the court does have the authority to impose a fine that is less than the minimum in exceptional circumstances.  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

Tribune-Express, vendredi 16 novembre 2007 No quick or cheap fix for sewage troubles par Richard Mahoney Facing legal action, the town of Hawkesbury is scrambling to remedy its sewage treatment problems, which have lingered, and have been improperly monitored, for several years. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has charged the town because it has failed to ensure the Main Street facility meets provincial regulations. A trial is set for November. Since early 2005, the treatment system has not complied with Ontario standards. And the extent of the trouble has not been properly gauged because between 1998 and 2005, flows were understated , perhaps by as much as 30 per cent, since a flow meter was malfunctioning during that period. Plus, while the plant produces about 14,000 cubic metres of sludge annually, the Ontario Clean Water Agency, which runs the plant, disposes of about 6,000 cubic metres, mostly by spreading it on farmland. The other 8,000 cubic metres of waste go into the nearby Ottawa River. “You have a lot of solids going into the river that should be spread on land,” said Mike Eamon, vice-president and senior engineer with the Thompson Rosemont Group. “It’s cheaper,” said the town’s interim technical services director Richard Guertin. However, there was little levity during last week’s town council meeting when the grim scenario was presented by Eamon and Bill Knight, also a vice-president and senior engineer with the Cornwall-based TRG, which has been hired by the town to draw up short-term and long-term action plans. “The plant can’t treat what is going in there,” Eamon cautioned, relating that a new facility could cost anywhere from $35 million to $40 million. “The design of the plant does not meet today’s requirements, there is inadequate sludge storage and the plant has not been operated as well as it could be,” said Eamon. The municipality will spend $75,000 to $100,000 to prepare a mandatory environmental assessment report that will be part of its application for government funding. “It is an investment in our town,” observed Mayor Jeanne Charlebois. “This is our priority; we have no other choice.” Eamon noted that, considering the town’s predicament, “You have an extremely strong application. You have been charged by the ministry and the situation is not getting better.” Under standard cost-sharing deals with the Ontario and federal governments, the town would have to foot one-third of the solution. In rare cases, municipalities have been awarded funds to cover 90 per cent of project costs, added Eamon. The town will look at two options: a new wastewater treatment plant on the existing site and a major upgrade of the current facility. “Some of that infrastructure can be reused. Ideally, you could get the cost down to $30 million or less by using the existing plant,” said Knight. “The equipment is still 30 years old,” Charlebois allowed. Built in 1978, the plant was owned and operated by the Ontario government until the province transferred the facility to the municipality in 1994. Marc Labrosse, the lawyer who is defending the town in the case brought by the ministry, observed that the exceedences of MOE guidelines were likely occurring prior to the transfer of the plant to the town. “When MOE owned the plant, the same thing happened,” said Labrosse. “Yes, but not as frequently,” replied Eamon. Flow has been “trending upwards” since 1979, the firm related in a report to council. In 2005, the firm of J.L. Richards & Associates recommended improvements be carried out. In hindsight, it was just as well that the recommendations were not fully implemented since the suggestions were based on inaccurate information, said Eamon.Some of the records on the operation will never be found. Years ago, “We had a break and enter and some of that data was lost,” said Harold Wilkinson, Assistant Operations Manager with OCWA.  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

Tribune-Express, mercredi 14 novembre 2007 Lack of sludge storage remains a pressing issue par Richard Mahoney An innovative attempt to increase sludge storage capacity at the Hawkesbury sewage treatment plant failed to pan out this summer, forcing the municipality to take more conventional measures to deal with the wastes. The Fournier press pilot project failed to give the expected results when the town rented the dewatering unit at a cost of $22,000a month. “‘It was too small,” related Ontario Clean Water Agency assistant operations manager Harold Wilkinson at a recent council meeting. “It did help us out but it took a lot of time and effort. We were working ten, 12 hours a day. We did the best we could.” Wilkinson added that the plant is expected to meet provincial requirements this month. “We did see some benefit,” he related. At best, the machine would have been a temporary measure, said Mike Eamon, a vice-president and senior engineer with the Thompson Rosemount Group. “It is difficult to use a pilot project to deal with that,” he added in reference to the plant’s inadequate design. Eamon allowed that because of its size, the press had to work 12 hours a day just to dewater 75 cubic metres. Another drawback is that the portable centrifuge could not operate in winter. The aim was to reduce the water content enough so that the sludge could be disposed at a landfill site. The sewage treatment plant now has a 60-day sludge storage capacity, however, by law, the plant ought to have a 240-day storage capacity. Currently, the sludge is spread on fields in May and November. The cheapest method is land application, said Eamon, suggesting that sludge be spread in July, August and September. He suggests that OCWA licence more land for three-season spreading in 2008. However, the cost of biosolids disposal may increase to as much as $379,000 as a result of this. In 2006, OCWA spent about $80,000 to dispose of about 6,000 cubic metres of sludge. If storage space is all used up in the winter, “You either have to dewater or haul,” observed Eamon. Farm manure lagoons would be suitable for sludge storage, or the wastes could be trucked to the L’Orignal plant or to an Ottawa facility. Already, OCWA has stopped the practice of accepting sludge from other sites. The short-term plan includes the expansion of the town’s industrial wastewater monitoring program and to direct designated industries and commercial properties to monitor their wastewater discharges to the sewer system. According to the engineering firm, the wastewater treatment plant is now operating at 91 per cent capacity. Even with the implementation of the short-term plan, exceedences will continue. There is no surplus capacity for future growth. Costs will continue to increase due to plant inefficiencies and biosolids disposal costs. The existing certificate of approval provisions are not achievable without major upgrades and the approved upgrade path is not appropriate. The defects are numerous. Grit removal is not effective and fine screening is not provided. Aeration tanks are undersized, secondary clarifiers are not deep enough, blower capacity is inadequate, the chlorine contact tank does not provide sufficient chlorine contact. The plant is very difficult to operate and maintain, is labour intensive and has no effective supervisory control and data acquisition system. The wet weather treatment facility is not capturing all the WW flow. “As the flow increases, you will be more out of compliance unless you do something, ” says Eamon. An interceptor now prevents bypasses; it treats 90 per cent of storm water but ten per cent is still discharged into the river. Now the capacity is 12,274 cubic metres per day. And that capacity is being stretched since the town has recently approved the construction of 419 new dwelling units in the municipality. No time to waste The Ministry of the Environment awaits and expects an action plan from the town. Eamon comments, “I suggest it would be advisable to do that as soon as possible so they do not become too upset with the situation.” “We have to be ready to make the application for the funding. We need to take decisions now,” stresses Mayor Jeanne Charlebois. Eamon relates that over the years, “patchwork things were added.” No thorough review of upgrading the plant was carried out. “Nobody looked at how to make this work efficiently,” he says. Councillor André Chamaillard suggested that since the plant was designed and built by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the government ought to ought to assume some responsibility for the quandary. Eamon believes that the ministry erred in placing the emphasis on reducing effluent bypasses in 2004. “My opinion is that this was the wrong priority. The priority ought to have upgrading the process to get better effluent.”  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

Tribune-Express, vendredi 16 novembre 2007 Water meters in Hawkesbury inevitable, council told par Richard Mahoney Ten years after Hawkesbury citizens rejected water meters, the installation of the controversial devices seems to have become inevitable. In a 1997 plebiscite, residents voted overwhelmingly against ditching the flat rate system in favour of meters that would introduce billing based on actual consumption of water. But Glengarry-Prescott-Russell M.P.P. Jean-Marc Lalonde and Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois agree that water meters and other conservation measures are essential to prolonging the life of the town’s precarious sewage treatment plant, which is operating at near capacity. Meters may be unpopular, but they are effective, Lalonde told council members at a special meeting Thursday. “The more water that is being used, the more that is going into your treatment plant and the more capacity is being used up,” said Lalonde. “If we put in meters, we could gain 25 per cent in our capacity at the sewage plant,” said Charlebois, adding that people should be billed for water the same way they are billed for electricity and natural gas. ‘You want water, you pay for it,” said Charlebois. Councillor Gilles Tessier observed that the flat annual rates residents pay are not equitable. “It is unfair for a person who saves water to pay the same bill as the person who waters the lawn, the driveway and even the street every day of the week.” Council has explored the possibility of having meters installed only in new developments. However, council members concede that eventually Hawkesbury must emulate communities such as L’Orignal and Vankleek Hill and install meters in all homes and businesses. There is no incentive to conserve water when everyone pays the same rates, Tessier pointed out. “We don’t have any choice but to go ahead with meters,” Charlebois reiterated, noting that any government support would be conditional on meters being installed. She said that a decision on meters would be taken by the end of the year. “We cannot impose meters on the people right away,” commented Councillor Gilles Roch Greffe. “We have to educate our population. Water is like hydro power. We all have a responsibility to conserve water like we have to conserve electricity,” he said. Lalonde and Charlebois stressed that if the issue is not addressed, the town will pay for its inaction in economic terms. Some municipalities have had new construction frozen because its sewage systems were inadequate, Lalonde recalled. The arrival of new industries could also be hampered by the town’s obsolete sewage plant, added Charlebois. Taxes, fees Lalonde reminded council that Hawkesbury has a disadvantage in that it has the highest property taxes in Prescott-Russell. The town could reduce its overall tax rate by generating new revenues, he noted. The M.P.P. suggested that the introduction of development fees would counter some of the extra costs created by new development. New homes generate taxes but they also increase demand for new municipal services, said Lalonde. Charlebois said that development fees were among the items council has been considering. The M.P.P. related that, on a per capita basis, Hawkesbury’s police bill is similar to that of Montréal. The bill for the Ontario Provincial Police service contract works out to $380 per person, or $600 per family. “That is very, very high,” commented Lalonde. The big factor is that the town receives lower subsidies for police services than other area municipalities because it has a service contract with the O.P.P. since it absorbed the town police force in 1999.  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

The Review, mercredi 21 novembre 2007 “We need those meters!” : Charlebois By Dominique Millette HAWKESBURY – Pants on? Pants off? The shell game was back on in Hawkesbury November 19 over whether to install water meters in hopes of getting a provincial subsidy, or whether to get a firm funding commitment before imposing water meters on residents. Meters would alleviate the town’s sewage treatment problems. However, no study has yet been commissioned to establish potential costs. This could be newly-appointed Chief Administrative Officer Normand Beaulieu’s first task when he comes on board December 3. Hawkesbury councillors water meter debate boils up The issue came up during the meeting of the Committee as a whole, as councillors discussed a November 7 letter Glengarr y-Prescott-Russell MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde sent to all the mayors in his riding, asking for a clear list of priorities by November 28. The sewage treatment plant was listed as the top priority.
Mayor Jeanne Charlebois : Months after charges laid, wants to push water meters through.

According to Mayor Jeanne Charlebois, water meters could increase sewage treatment plant capacity by 25 per cent: “You’re going to stop making excuses. You’re going to put your pants on (vous allez mettre vos culottes),” she snapped during the meeting. “We need those meters!” While several councillors were in agreement, others were less sanguine. One skeptic, Michel Beaulne interjected that if the town put in the water meters and there’s no subsidy, “Somebody’s going to lose their pants!” For the past several months now, the Corporation of the Town of Hawkesbury has faced charges over incidents occurring from 2005 to 2006. They involve failing to comply with conditions to operate and maintain the sewage treatment works so that effluent parameters are not exceeded. The first period extended from the beginning of June 2005 to the end of April 2006; and the second, from the beginning of June 2006 to the end of November the same year. Though Christine Groulx, the Clerk for the Town of Hawkesbury, confirmed the charges were already several months old, the news has only come to light in the past week. As of press time, it was not clear why the information has taken so long to go public. The court date is set for January 17, 2008 at 9 a.m. in L’Orignal. While Charlebois insisted that “If we’re not ready to invest in ourselves, how can we ask others to support us,” Councillor Gilles Roch Greffe said he had no problem with water meters, but wants a commitment from the government before imposing them on citizens: “It would be nice to have a report... Everybody’s asking me how much does a water meter cost and I answer, I can’t tell you, it’s anywhere between $200 and $700.” He added: “We’re in this mess because of downloading from the provincial government. The federal government dumps on the province and the province dumps (on municipalities), then lowers taxes.” Instead of other levels of government lowering taxes, he said, the money should be transferred to municipalities. Meanwhile, the consolidated statements for the town’s financial situation to October 31, 2007 indicated a deficit of $780,974 for user fees for water, sewage, and waste. Charlebois conceded in an interview that perhaps Hawkesbury got turned down for funding in the past due to studies not being ready. She further stated that “the Ministry of the Environment has warned us if we don’t take care of business they’re going to freeze all development in the town. We have to take ourselves seriously.” The mayor pointed out that, even though she voted against looking at replacing the fire truck, “We can’t cut everything, because each department has emergencies. Sewage treatment is our number one priority and number two is far, far behind... That doesn’t mean we can let everything go to pieces all around us.”  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

The Review, mercredi 21 novembre 2007 Ottawa Riverkeeper weighs in on Hawkesbury woes By Dominique Millette OTTAWA – Meredith Brown, Executive Director of Ottawa Riverkeeper, doesn’t know whether to break out the champagne or shake her head in consternation over the news that the town of Hawkesbury is facing charges over sewage treatment problems. “In one respect, I’m pleasantly surprised. The Ministry of the Environment is taking action on this. It’s interesting because charges like this don’t come up that often. They must have a fairly bad track record to be getting to this level. Some groups have been fighting to get their municipalities into court.” Charges were laid several months ago. Regrettably, there are already many sources of sewage in the Ottawa River, Brown observes, with Ottawa and Gatineau as major culprits. The sewage treatment plant in Hawkesbury is a secondary treatment plant, which is good, she says: most municipalities along the Ottawa River are primary treatment plants with lower standards. This is true on the Québec side, for example, where they don’t chlorinate their effluent. Bottom line: who should pay for this? “That’s always the biggest question – where the money is going to come from,” acknowledges Brown. “All the solutions to sewage treatment are very capital intensive.” The Riverkeeper agrees there’s a need for federal and provincial money as well as municipal funding: “Many of these municipalities will never have the money. They can’t fund one of these facilities by themselves – and some of these small communities have not just money issues but capacity issues.” The federal government has a new strategy earmarking dollar amounts for upgrades. Some funds are already available but difficult to access. Some municipalities, Brown says, have applied three years in a row for money and been denied the funds so far. On the one hand, she argues, “Municipal waste is created by the people in the municipality and they need to be responsible for their waste. If they need to increase taxes so be it.” However, she concedes: “It’s obviously harder on the smaller municipalities.”  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

The Review, mercredi 21 novembre 2007

The first thing to fix in Hawkesbury by Louise Sproule In February of this year, this newspaper reported that the Town of Hawkesbury was seeking government funding to complete a $12 million upgrade of its sewage treatment plant. The first phase, which had cost about $6 million, was financed under the Ontario Small Town and Rural Development (OSTAR) fund. That second stage was abandoned in 2005 when the town concluded it could not afford to complete the job. The second phase of work was to enable the town to satisfy its sludge storage capacity, which was at 90 days and should have been 240 days’ worth of sludge storage capacity. In September, we reported that Hawkesbury’s waste water discharged into the Ottawa River has been non-compliant for most of the summer. Sewage bypasses occurred on June 27, 28 and August 6, due to wet weather. The town has been unsuccessful in its bids for funding to repair and upgrade its waste water treatment facility. Over the past decade or more, we have reported on the deplorable state of Hawkesbury’s waste water treatment plant, and other outdated plants in the region which were unable to keep up with treatment demands. An Environment Probe study posted online indicates that Hawkesbury’s waste water treatment plant was out of compliance in 1991. Now, the town is facing a steep fine for its non-compliant sewage treatment facility. Ministry of Environment charges date back to May of this year. And here is still another big surprise: the current plant does not meet today’s requirements. The cost to make the facility compliant ? In the tens of millions, of course – and that doesn’t include studies and environmental assessments. Copies of a Thompson Rosemount Group presentation which contain pertinent information presented at a public council meeting are not available from the town, it seems. Nor are details of charges laid by the Ministry of Environment available online. Beyond the appalling thought of a large fine to be levied against a municipality and ultimately, paid for by the citizens who trusted their municipality to manage processes within the law, one cannot help but go one step further and ask what lies ahead for Hawkesbury. Citizens are saddled with a facility which does not meet current requirements. The municipal administration does not have the money to replace it, nor, does it necessarily have the expertise to manage itself out of this dead-end situation. We began by outlining just a few of the town’s waste water problems we have reported on previously. Maybe now, with the financial pressure looming, this can truthfully be called a turning-point and crisis for Hawkesbury. More’s the pity that clear information, reports and problem-solving scenarios are not available in a timely manner from either the town or the Ministry of Environment. In a sickening twist of fate, one arm of government lowers the boom on an inadequate system that another arm of government pawned off on all of us years ago. In other words, even as the Ministry of Environment does it job to ensure that environmental regulations are met, other levels of provincial government refuse funding to assist Hawkesbury in its bid to remedy the situation. Should every town have millions of dollars at the ready to rebuild infrastructure that will have served its time in about 50 years, when the entire process will begin all over again? We place the safety of our drinking water and our environment in the hands of our local elected officials, for the most part. In turn, the facilities they run are monitored by the province, which sets the guidelines to be met. To add insult to injury, most of the documents and reports explaining this intricate relationship and the related costs, are not easily available to the public from any source, if they are available at all. There are many problems that need solving at the municipal level. Whether or not there is provincial intervention involved, the public has the right to the same information as those making the decisions. Hawkesbury’s leaders must move fast to set a fresh stage for sharing and organizing information. The sharing of information is the easiest problem to fix in Hawkesbury. Like the advertising slogan says: just do it.  Télécharger cet article au format PDF

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