Phosphorus recycling facility for Lake Simcoe ‘overdue’: Bradford councillor

A Bradford West Gwillimbury councillor’s motion to ask York Region to expedite the planning and construction of the proposed Holland Marsh phosphorus Recycling Facility was unanimously passed by council. 

Coun. Jonathan Scott’s motion also called on the provincial government to help fund the project. 

Scott partnered with Georgina Coun. Dave Neeson to move the planning and construction of the facility forward. The proposed facility is meant to reduce phosphoros run-off 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 each year.

The facility is a proposal of York Region to be built in between Bradford and King Township. The federal government is contributing $16 million toward the estimated $40-million project. 

The project is on hold because the region was planning to include it as part of the overall Upper York Sewage Solution, which has been paused indefinitely.

“One question led to another, and I eventually was able to speak with officials at York Region and realized that because of this broader debate about the (UYSS), this project was unfortunately stalled within that broader debate,” Scott said.

Scott and Neeson discussed how to move the construction of the facility forward.

“The phosphorus treatment plant is so beneficial and so overdue because of our 12-year commitments to reduce phosphoros under the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan, that we decided to try and do what we could to push it forward,” Scott said.

Scott said he’s optimistic the facility will be built, because he said all levels of government are aligned on the issue of the phosphorus recycling facility.

“I think the key that could unlock this whole thing is if the province agreed to pick up some of the capital costs and then, frankly, York Region would have no excuse to not remove this part of their overall scheme and move this forward independently,” he said. 

Neeson said the recycling facility is an important step forward for the entire Lake Simcoe watershed.

“This facility will be a game-changer for the entire Lake Simcoe watershed, and we need it to proceed,” Neeson said. “A wide variety of Lake Simcoe watershed residents and stakeholder groups are united in supporting our motion, and we hope the region and the province are listening.”

Jack Gibbons, chair of Lake Simcoe Watch, said the facility has been three decades in the making.

“We need to take many actions to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Simcoe and to reach the government of Ontario’s target of limiting phosphorus pollution to 44 tonnes per year,” he said.

The facility is the single largest pollution reduction option that is available in Lake Simcoe and is a project that should be pursued, Gibbons said.

It’s “absolutely disgraceful” that the facility is still just being talked about, he added.

Gibbons said he’s optimistic about the prospects of the facility moving forward with Scott and Neeson pushing for it.

“I’m very hopeful that we are going to make progress,” he said.

King Township Mayor Steve Pellegrini said it’s been both the Liberal and Conservative governments that have stalled on the issue, and so he remains neutral in that respect.

“I’m not here to point fingers at any government, because it’s been both the previous and current sitting provincial governments that have not dealt with the (environmental assessment),” he said. 

Pellegrini said the stalling of the project is disappointing because of the money that has been spent, and now there’s no solution. 

The motion will be brought to Georgina council on Sept. 17 by Neeson.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Reporter Laura Broadley heard about the push by Bradford West Gwillimbury and Georgina councillors to move the Holland Marsh phosphorus recycling facility forward. She interviewed Coun. Jonathan Scott, Jack Gibbons and Mayor Steve Pellegrini.

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