This column was originally published in the December 2016 edition of the New Edinburgh News.
For background documentation on the CSST, please refer to this page.
Views From Our City Councillor on CSST
By Tobi Nussbaum, City Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe
My approach to the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel (CSST) has been, and will continue to be, based on three tracks: keeping the community informed, mitigating the impact of the proposed project on New Edinburgh and third, working with NECA as it develops a robust community response to, and strategy for, the CSST.
The history of this project dates back to 2009, when a three-year environmental assessment study was launched as part of the Ottawa River Action Plan, which is intended to reduce the dumping of raw sewage into the Ottawa River. Despite the fact that Stanley Park was identified as the location for the eastern portal and extraction site, no consultation was held in New Edinburgh. Furthermore, there appears to have been little or no direct communication between City Hall and the community leading up to the formal City Council vote authorizing the project in 2013.
When I first learned of the project in mid-2015, six months into my term of office, I focused my efforts on removing the tunnel extraction function from the Stanley Park portal. It was clear that a portal at that location was required given that constructing the tunnel east of the Rideau River to provide redundancy with the existing east-west sewer interceptor and link the tunnel to the sewer outflow under River Lane was an important part of the approved project. This was the unalterable reality of the community sitting above critical sewer infrastructure. It was not obvious to me, however, why the excavation for the east-west tunnel should occur at that site.
As I reported to NECA in September 2015, I sought alternative options for the extraction locations despite the fact that the project as planned was already approved by City Council. City staff’s responses to my efforts were not encouraging. An alternative eastern extraction site closer to existing truck routes was deemed unmanageable in terms of the project budget and timelines. The option of a mid-tunnel extraction shaft was apparently impossible for geotechnical reasons having to do with underground fault lines and associated risks. Extracting from the western portal was allegedly not feasible due to a lack of access to the site and technical complications associated with tunneling on a downward slope.
I asked the project team to provide an information session for the community which occurred, belatedly, at this year’s NECA annual general meeting on Oct. 27. Following this session, here is a summary of my next steps:
Keeping the Community Informed
I will continue to provide information on the project though the New Edinburgh News (this article being my fourth), the NECA board, my monthly e-newsletters and by facilitating answers to resident questions and meetings with the project team.
As the start of the project draws nearer, more details about the construction activities and timelines are becoming available. I asked the project team to provide a subsequent information session on Nov. 16, which was held at the field house. A video of that presentation is available on my website, tobinussbaum.ca, for those who were unable to attend. I will continue to share information as I receive it from the project team and ensure answers to your queries are provided.
I will continue to work to mitigate the impacts of this project. At the time of writing this update, I have organized further meetings at City Hall to explore alternative extraction location options. At the same time, I am organizing subject-specific mitigation meetings with the relevant NECA task teams and CSST project team members. We must ensure that specific aspects of the project are informed by community input – to ensure resident health and safety is at the forefront of decisions ranging from truck routes to construction site operations.
Working with the Community
I will be working closely with the NECA board over the coming weeks and months as it develops and executes the community strategy for managing the project.
In summary, while I support the intended environmental objectives of the Ottawa River Action Plan and the CSST, I am committed to working with the community, as your representative at City Hall, to reduce the burden this project imposes on the residents and community of New Edinburgh.