The Region of York is currently working on a trunk sewer installation which runs through north Richmond Hill, Markham and then through Pickering. The machine being used to bore the tunnel for the gravity sewer to be employed, is the same one that was used to tunnel the Sheppard Subway line. Several complication arose more than 2 years ago when the Oak Ridges Moraine middle aquifer was punctured, and enormous amounts of water had to be drained and pumped into the Rouge River in order for the work to continue. Applications to the Provincial Ministry of the Environment for Permits to Take Water, which were necessary to continue the project, took much longer than expected. after almost 2 years of waiting, the Region of York finally admitted to unsuspecting municipalities that there had been a delay and that development would have to stop as there was insufficient sewer capacity for new homes. This resulted in enormous pressure from homebuyers and developers on both the region of York, and the municipalities. Provincial Minister of the Environment Leona Dombrowsky eventually issued the necessary permits and work resumed.

Currently, 70 000 000 litres of water are being drained daily from the Oak Ridges Moraine and dumped into the Rouge River. This has affected the water composition and temperature in the river and has caused extensive riparian and marine life damage throughout the watershed. At the same time a massive sewerpipe is being installed into this vast natural water supply which will ultimately contaminate the headwaters of all the rivers including the Humber, and Don which run through Toronto to Lake Ontario.

As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, and with booming population growth in the GTA, it is unclear how the existing and future residents will deal with a contaminated water supply as trunk sewers can be expected to leak. The Town of Richmond Hill has already been forced to invoke water-use restricting by-laws in June of 2005 in order to deal with potential water shortages.

Richmond Hill MP Bryon Wilfert has been contacted by Richmond Hill Councillor Elio Di Iorio's office to further discuss potential action on this situation. Bryon Wilfert, who is also the Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of The Environment Stephane Dion,has recognized the gravity of this scenario and conveyed his concern regarding this project.

The proposed 19th Avenue construction project with is currently beforre York Region Council, would involve tunneling through a Natural Linkage area (as defined in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act). The Act states that new transportation and utility corridors or facilities shall only be allowed in Natural Core Areas and Natural Linkage Areas if they are shown to be necessary and there is no reasonable alternative. They shall also have to meet stringent review and approval standards. In fact this trunk sewer would run through a significant aquifer in doing so.

There has been no case made to show that this type of sewer construction design is necessary and no alternatives have been explored or considered. Part of the review and approval requirements of the MOE were that alternative designs be examined.


While the laying of massive trunk sewer pipes was seen as a viable solution to sewage management in the 1970s, it must be acknowlegded that the science of sewage management has evolved significantly throughout the world. Current localized systems including digesters, living machines, and biogas facilities have not only been successful in dealing with disposal of human waste, but have returned energy and fertilizer back to the community in the process. While this is clearly a more effective and green approach, the Region of York appears to be determined to proceed with an outdated system as planned.

It is worth noting that in the recent federal budget, there were new monies allocated in the New Deal For Cities for Infrastructure funding as well as a replenishment of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities's Green Municipal Funds. Each of these funding sources specifically make reference to wastewater treatment projects as being eligible for such funding.

Action Required!

By proceeding with this project, and installing sewer pipes in aquifers,entire watersheds, both to the North and South of the Oak Ridges Moraine, will be in peril of source contamination. Numerous private wells draw water from these aquifers which are components of an complex hydrology and which form the headwaters of fifty rivers. The prospect of a Walkerton type scenario becoming a reality in the coming years is not unreasonable or unlikely.

We need to ask the province to intervene, not only ask, but remind that it is their legislation that is being violated, and they are responsible to ensure that it is implemented. It is also vital to address to the Region’s impending decision making that will approve this pipe.

It should be noted that the Regional Municipality of York is currently in the process of approving a section of the York Durham Sewer system pipe through 19th avenue, directly ripping through the heart of the Moraine in Richmond Hill. This decision will be made Thursday June 23rd, 2005. The province must intervene immediately to stop the region from proceeding with this option for the sewer pipe alignment, and ensure that more ecologically sound options and alternatives are explored and ultimately implemented, if the Moraine is to be protected under the current legislation.

For more information or to find out how you can help, contact

Councillor Erin Shapero, Ward 2, Town of Markham

Councillor Elio Di Iorio, Ward 5, Town of Richmond Hill