End of development for Glen Walter?

South Glengarry Infrastructure General Manager Ewen MacDonald listens to a question from a township councillor during a meeting on Monday, March 5, 2018 in Lancaster, Ont. If the township doesn't take action on its sewer system in Glen Walter, MacDonald says development will come to a halt within five years. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – Unless South Glengarry takes some serious action, building in the community of Glen Walter could stop in five years.

The township’s development darling on the eastern border of the City of Cornwall has seen homes popping up with a number of subdivisions, such as Place St. Laurent and along Purcell Road.

But the problem is all those homes – and existing ones with sump pump connections to the sewer system – have been overloading the sewage treatment plant.

According to the township’s 2017 annual water and waste water report, the Glen Walter sewage plant was running above its rated capacity of 787 cubic meters per day (173,000 gallons per day) almost 40 per cent of the year. If there’s any silver lining in all of this, the large amount of sewage going through the plant is mostly water – not solid waste.

Because the township calculates building capacity on the flows through the plants, all that effluent is flushing out further development. For instance, in 2017, the township had zero availability in Glen Walter for sewer hookups.

This year, there is room in Glen Walter for 32 sewer connections – 26 in subdivisions and six for infill, such a lot severances. There are 74 connections already approved for subdivisions on Purcell Road and Place St. Laurent on County Road 2.

“We cannot be complacent with this. We have been dealing with this issue for a number of years and high flows have been directly triggered by winter rain events. We suspect there’s still many property owners that have sump pumps connected into our system,” Infrastructure General Manager Ewen MacDonald said.

MacDonald said they are reviewing underground camera inspection data, updated weather data as well as waiting for an environmental assessment this spring, which should have some recommendations, in order for the municipality to create an action plan.

That will include hunting down homeowners with sump pumps discharging into the system and taking action against them.

“If we don’t (address this), we will be in a position where we won’t be able to develop Glen Walter any further.”

“I’m a little scared,” Coun. Lyle Warden remarked. “If you can’t treat the effluent enough and then it is getting discharge, where does it leave the municipality?”

“Although these additional 100 connections are in the system, I don’t think they will contribute to higher flows than what would be normally expected,” MacDonald answered, suggesting the problems are probably coming from homes on older sewage pipes.

“My concern is the strain on the system,” Coun. Trevor Bougie added. “That system is running 100 per cent, all the time,” he said.

While the plant has an average annual flow of 787 cubic meters per day, MacDonald said the peak flow is 2,100 cubic meters (461,200 gallons) a day. But there have been “a couple of times” where that has been eclipsed, he said.

Solving the problem will basically come down to two options: finding the source of all the extra water and stopping it or expanding the sewage plant – a multi-million dollar venture.

Coun. Bill MacKenzie asked how long the township could sustain development based on the current situation.

“If we continue…we’re at our average annual (daily flow). If that number isn’t reduced in four years that average would (of sewage hookups) be zero. We would not be able to commit to any building on that system in five years,” MacDonald answered.

Planning GM Joanne Haley added that the plant capacity has been an issue before and the plant was re-rated, which bought the township an extra 100 connections.

“At that time, we were in a position to say to people, we can’t promise you development opportunities. We’re now nearly that again. We have three different subdivisions that have gone through draft plan approval that we cannot commit capacity to which means it reduces or sterilizes growth our Glen Walter area,” she said.

“This is a priority for us. If not, we will not continue to grow in Glen Walter.”