A major overhaul of Ontario’s sewage system is on the horizon, and it’s expected to take years.
That’s the message from the provincial auditor general, who says the province needs to fix problems with the Ontario Water Resources Board’s (OWBR) water treatment system by the middle of the next decade.
Ontario’s Public Works Minister David Shiner said the government is working with the OWRB to develop a plan to ensure it’s up to snuff by 2030.
That could mean rebuilding sewage systems at the water treatment plant and the provincial-owned and operated wastewater treatment plant in Kingston, which serves about 2 million residents.
The OWRBR said it has a plan in place to address some of the major concerns and problems with its water treatment process.
Shiner told reporters on Tuesday that he was confident in the province’s water treatment capacity.
“It is not an easy system,” he said.
“I think that when you have an investment in the system, you’ve got to have a way of managing it.
And if you don’t manage it well, it will degrade over time.”
Shiner also pointed out that the province is taking steps to ensure that sewage flows to the public at the lowest possible level, and to make sure it stays clear of the Kingston and Toronto areas.
The Ontario Public Works Agency has been making improvements to its wastewater treatment process in Kingston since January.
But the new system was not designed with that in mind.
“We have to have our own set of priorities,” Shiner noted.
“That’s why we’re investing in this.”
Shinner said the OBR has identified “potential” issues in Kingston and that there are “some issues” with its treatment and waste handling.
Shinner told reporters that a review of the system will begin within a year, with an expected completion date of 2030.
He also said the review will look at all the systems and what problems there are with them.
The audit will look into whether the OPRB can do better and whether improvements are needed, as well as whether there are problems with maintenance.
It’s expected the review, which was requested by the OPP, will cost the OPUB $8 billion.
The province is also taking steps, Shiner says, to improve the quality of wastewater that enters the treatment plant.
“There are still a lot of things that are not working, not in a good way, but it’s been working well for the past three years,” he told reporters.
The new system “has been working very well.”
He added that the government has also been working with private companies to improve and modernize wastewater treatment plants.
Shiney says the provincial government is committed to spending at least $7 billion on wastewater treatment over the next 10 years.
Shines has been in office since January 2016.
He was elected in September 2017.
The Progressive Conservatives have a majority government.
With files from CBC News