TORONTO – No matter what you call wastewater, no one likes it, and people in Scarborough have been fighting about what to do with the sewage at Highland Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant for decades.
Barbara McElgunn has lived near the treatment plant since it opened 35 years ago and is now a member of the Highland Creek Neighbourhood Liaison Committee.
“I think it his impacts us all as a community,” she said. “We’re going to have trucks going through every day with odourous sewage inside of them, through our neighbourhoods.”
The city of Toronto is studying options on how best to upgrade the facility.
One option would be to use new technology to burn biosolids, or sewage sludge, on-site. The second option would be to transport all matter off-site to be stored elsewhere.
A third possibility would be to process everything at the plant before trucking any organic material away, which could see it sold off for fertilizer.
“I would prefer seeing no incineration at all,” area resident Kimberly Milliard said. “I think we need to keep on-ground solutions for better air quality.”
People living in the area are divided about the amount of traffic that would be generated by trucks coming to and from the plant.
Local city councillor Ron Moeser prefers newer, cleaner incineration and has tried unsuccessfully to convince city council to vote in favour of the idea.
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“It’s a tough sell because on the left side of council they feel very strongly that burning is not the solution,” he said. “I’m hoping I can change two or three people’s minds on this.”
The Highland Creek Treatment plant services an estimated 500,000 people in Toronto and treats about 170,000 cubic metres of wastewater per day.
The facility generates 41,000 wet tonnes of biosolids each year.
Heather Marshall is the DeTOx Toronto campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance and thinks a compromise can be reached.
“It essentially comes down to ‘do they manage it on site or truck it away,'” she said. “If they manage it on site, it does not have to just be burning.”
New provincial emissions requirements take effect in 2020.
A decision on what changes will be made to the plant is expected by December 2015.