Ministry matters

Ministry denies city’s request to extend deadline to comply with provincial order

District manager says he’s ‘taking steps to ensure the city completes necessary upgrades to protect human health and the environment’

Timmins’ request to extend the deadline to complete work at a Porcupine pump station and comply with an order from a provincial director was denied.

The deadline for the City of Timmins to honor the order and complete work on the Whitney-Tisdale sewer system was last Friday (January 28). The plant is not operational and the city had applied to the Department of Environment, Conservation and Parks for an extension to complete the work.

“The ministry understands that the City of Timmins has experienced challenges completing upgrades to its wastewater collection system that are beyond its control. However, we are taking steps to ensure the City makes the necessary upgrades to protect human health and the environment and are not granting a further extension to the compliance deadline requested by the City on January 19, 2022,” a said Greg Ault, the Timmins district director for the ministry, in an email.

TimminsToday asked for further clarification on the measures taken.

In a statement, CAO Dave Landers said the contractor missed the construction schedule due to delays.

He said the department has asked the city to continue providing updates on progress and delays through bi-weekly emails.

“They recognize that these delays are beyond our control and that we are doing everything we can to complete this project as we have ensured that the lines of communication between the city and the department have been opened with full disclosure of the issues and regular updates. Currently, we are still working within the board-approved repair budget for the project,” Landers said.

The director of public works and engineering, Pat Seguin, hesitates to give a timetable for the completion of the work.

“We are working very hard on this and there are COVID supply chain issues that are out of our control and there are people getting sick,” he said.

Seguin said it was “absolutely” possible for the project to be completed.

“I’ve lived on this lake all my life, I also have a vested interest in seeing this thing done, no one is dragging their feet on this,” he said.

In a blog post earlier this week, the city said work at the site was “plagued” by supply chain issues and labor shortages. Extreme cold warnings also made it difficult to complete work in December and January, according to the city.

Currently, when the capacity of the sewer system in the east end of the city is exceeded, raw sewage is pumped into Porcupine Lake.

A two-phase project to clean up the sewage system began in 2014.

A provincial officer’s order was issued for him in 2012, followed by a director’s order in 2017.

Upgrades to mechanical, electrical and instrumentation systems, as well as other work at the other pump stations have been completed. Work at pumping station 4 is not complete.

“On August 21, 2017, the ministry issued a Director’s Order to the City of Timmins to address outstanding actions from an order from a previous provincial officer. This resulted in the requirement to upgrade Pump Station 4 and the installation of new stormwater equalization tanks,” writes Ault.

“Four compliance date extensions have been granted since then, to February 28, 2018, June 30, 2021, October 23, 2021 and January 28, 2022.”