While an Ecojustice report card recently named Pickering, Ontario’s Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant one of the province’s finest, the plant is at the centre of local controversy.

The plant, which is owned by and treats waste from York and Durham Regions, received a B+ in the report, the second-highest grade of 12 facilities.

“Durham and York regions have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years to improve the quality of treated water discharged into Lake Ontario and help protect one of the foremost environmental assets in Durham Region,” said Durham commissioner of works Cliff Curtis in a release issued yesterday. “We are proud that Ecojustice—an independent environmental association—has recognized us for our commitment to environmental protection.”

Meanwhile, the citizen group PACT POW (Pickering Ajax Citizens Together Protecting our Waterfront) and the Town of Ajax have taken active roles in protesting the plant’s wastewater treatment method, claiming phosphorus in the treated effluent is causing excessive algae growth along the Ajax and Pickering shorelines, leading to unpleasant odours, a slow deterioration of the shores, and a threatened local drinking water supply at a cost to recreation and tourism opportunities.

By 2031, York Region is expected to grow by 400,000 residents. With 80 per cent of the sewage treated at the Duffin Creek Plant coming from York, and with Durham’s own expected growth, the amount of treated effluent being deposited into Lake Ontario is expected to rise from the current 340 million litres per day to as much as 630 million. While the Regions of York and Durham are considering adjustments to the current system to accommodate the increase, the Town of Ajax and PACT POW are asking for more to be done.

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Specifically, PACT POW is asking the regions to consider incorporating more advanced technology to reduce phosphorus levels. The group cites York Region’s research into technology for a new plant that would reduce levels by 97.5 per cent more than Duffin Creek’s intended target. Ajax has also suggested the construction of a new outfall that discharges at least three kilometres offshore, a significant upgrade from the current one kilometre offshore discharge.

PACT POW is hosting a rally in Ajax on August 17, featuring Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

RELATED: Duffin Creek Phase 3 Expansion Complete

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