Manitou lots pilot project for phosphate-free septic beds

Ontario Municipal Board approves six lots as part of a three-lake study

MANITOULIN—The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has approved an Official Plan (OP) amendment redesignating an area of Lake Manitou north of Red Lodge Resort from agricultural to shoreline residential to allow for the six-lot pilot project McLay Subdivision.

“I am very happy about the OMB’s decision,” subdivision developer Doug McLay told The Expositor following the OMB hearing last Thursday. “This first step took six years. I will now be immediately applying for the six lot subdivision with the (Manitoulin) Planning Board (MPB) and once it gets approved I anticipate beginning construction in the next six months.”

This reporter sat in on the OMB teleconference hearing last week, during which the OMB heard expert testimony confirming that the proposed pilot project subdivision demonstrated good planning. The board also reviewed the minutes of settlement between Mr. McLay, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

The settlement was officially reached earlier this year, approving a six lot pilot project (instead of the planned 21 lots) with the condition that the septic systems of the new lots will be monitored for three years prior to the second phase of the subdivision being approved by the MOECC.

The Lake Manitou Area Association (LMAA), which has been publicly objected to the subdivision in the past, was also involved on the call. However, despite stating that the organization does not support the project, it accepted and withdrew its objection.

“LMAA decided to accept the agreement and withdraw our objection, in part because of a number of communications during the prior week (with representatives of the developer and the province),” Robert Coulter of the LMAA explained to The Expositor following the hearing. “They made it clear that the province actually wanted the agreement in order to proceed as part of a three lake ‘pilot project’ to assess the effectiveness of developing phosphorus removal/retention technologies. This interest by the province lent additional weight to the opposition LMAA would be facing in a full hearing and a majority of LMAA directors provided direction not to pursue the objection.”

“We wish to clarify that we do not in any way support the agreement,” continued Mr. Coulter. “As I stated during the hearing event, Lake Manitou is a provincially significant lake trout lake (so designated by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) in its own right, and additionally so since the operation of the Blue Jay Creek hatchery station provides Lake Manitou genetic material to support the lake trout fisheries in a number of lakes across the province. As such, it is a singularly inappropriate location and context to run a ‘pilot project’ experiment.”

“In communications prior to the hearing event, LMAA was able to secure two relatively minor changes or additions to the agreement,” he added. “One of these is that LMAA will receive copies of all monitoring reports and have the opportunity to forward its comments to MMAH/MOECC before the province reaches decisions on the adequacy of the results.”

Mr. McLay explained that the pilot project will demonstrate the effectiveness of phosphorous removal septic system technology and is the first of its kind on Manitoulin.

Three of the sites will feature septic systems with special soils to trap phosphates while the other three sites will feature a Waterloo Biofilter System (an advanced onsite wastewater treatment system for off-sewer developments).

“Part of the pilot project is that we have to prove phosphates won’t get into the lake and I feel confident that we can do this,” said Mr. McLay. “I think that the future of all development on Lake Manitou is going to depend on me proving the effectiveness of these systems.”