URLA will not support any wastewater approach which threatens the health of Upper Rideau Lake
Most people in Westport are on municipal (sewage) wastewater system. The Village wastewater system sends treated effluent into the ground away from the lake. However, Westport has been told it cannot expand this system. So, if it continues to grow at its current rate, Westport will need to acquire additional wastewater processing capacity in the years ahead.
Westport hosted a public meeting on this issue last November 29th. There were three main options on the table: “do nothing” (i.e., do not expand the Village beyond its existing wastewater capacity); build a new system which puts treated effluent into the ground; or build a new system which would put treated effluent into a “receiving water body” (a “surface water discharge”). The receiving water body was not identified at the meeting.
However, the Upper Rideau would be a candidate as the “receiving water body”, were the option of a surface water discharge selected by Council. Effluent standards would likely be very high and would be approved by the Ontario government.
Representing our Board, I have been serving as a volunteer on the wastewater Technical Steering Committee, chaired by former Westport CAO Scott Bryce. The Committee’s broad mandate and Westport’s general obligations in this process, including engagement with stakeholders, is set out by the provincial government.
Any decision by Westport which affects the health of the Upper Rideau would affect not only Westport residents but those in the broader lake community. More than 90% of the shoreline on the lake lies within the Township of Rideau Lakes, and, of course, water from the Upper Rideau flows elsewhere, into the Big Rideau in particular.
No one wants to pollute the lake
In 2024, I believe that no-one would wish to “pollute” the Upper Rideau. That said, some might well entertain risks – environment and economic risks – for the health of the Upper Rideau, so that Westport can grow much larger. Understanding these risks is, therefore, essential for all parties.
As a Lake Association there is no dilemma – we will not support any wastewater approach which threatens the health of our Lake. Our Association was established more than 30 years ago expressly to deal with the challenges posed by poor quality sewage effluent released into the lake by Westport (and poor private septic and shoreline practices elsewhere on the lake).
Since that time, many people have worked hard – volunteers, individual property owners and municipal (Westport and Rideau Lakes) officials alike -- to improve lake heath. And our lake is recovering – water quality has improved from POOR to FAIR. To my knowledge, there were no confirmed reports of dangerous blue green algae last year on our lake.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will provide updates on the wastewater decision-making process, as well as some of the relevant experiences of other small Ontario municipalities.