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Report backs claims that Duffin Creek plant causing Ajax algae problem

The town of Ajax east of Toronto on Lake Ontario now has a report by an independent team of U.S. researchers to back its arguments that a wastewater treatment plant is causing unsightly algae pollution on its beaches.


The town of Ajax east of Toronto on Lake Ontario now has a report by an independent team of U.S. researchers to back its arguments that a wastewater treatment plant is causing unsightly algae pollution on its beaches.

Ajax blames the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant for releasing phosphorous into the waters around the town. The plant receives piped waste from York and Durham Regions, areas of growing populations to the north, and was recently expanded from a capacity of 420 ML/d to 630 ML/d.

Ajax commissioned a study of the cause of the algae blooms by a team from Michigan Technological University led by Dr. Martin Auer. The researchers undertook field and laboratory over the spring and summer of 2014 and outlined their conclusions in a report, “Phosphorus Provenance and Cladophora Growth in Lake Ontario.”

The report finds that the Duffin Creek plant’s discharge creates a plume of nutrient enriched water within the area of the nearshore where algae growth occurs. It says that the offshore waters of Lake Ontario do not contain nutrients at levels capable of causing the nuisance-level growth of algae in the Ajax nearshore.  The report also says that as it is the largest and most constant local source of algae-growth-causing nutrients to the Ajax nearshore, the Duffin plant should be the primary focus of future management efforts.

Ajax has sent the report to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Ajax-Pickering MPP Joe Dickson and the Regions, asking for action. Meanwhile the Michigan team is doing further modelling and field work to develop possible management strategies to restore the Ajax waterfront.

Ajax Mayor Steve Parish said in a press release: “The findings strongly support the Town’s position that the Duffin Creek WPCP is the cause of the algae issue along the Ajax nearshore. The positive news is that through proper management actions, the algae can be remediated, and the Ajax waterfront restored for generations to enjoy. I’m hopeful that the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change will intervene and require the Regions of Durham and York (owners of the plant) to work with the Town to find a suitable solution.”

To read the report, “Phosphorus Provenance and Cladophora Growth in Lake Ontario,” click here.

To read a related story, click here.