Toronto is a Canadian city looking to the future, a future that includes climate change. There have been reports and conversations over the last few years discussing whether or not Toronto’s wastewater treatment plant can handle sewage during extreme weather.
During the summer storm of 2013, the city dropped at least a billion liters of sewage into Lake Ontario, which is not ideal.
To better prepare for the severe weather which is predicted to happen in the next few decades, Toronto is looking to Boston, Massachusetts’ Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant as an example of a sewage treatment plant made to withstand anything that natural forces can throw at it.
Deer Island’s sewage holding tanks were built 58 centimeters off the ground – just enough to keep the plant safe from projected sea level changes through 2050, amongst other resilient features.
The Torontoist reports:
“…Toronto is projected to see a rainfall increase of more than 80 per cent in July, followed by 50 per cent more in August.
Of course, we’re already experiencing the summer storms and flooding. If the expected increases come to fruition, our wastewater treatment plants could be in trouble. Toronto’s largest treatment plant, at Ashbridges Bay, is getting a $1.7 billion 10-year makeover just to ensure it can handle its current capacity.
The City’s website lists a handful of actions taken in preparation for climate change, including changing the size of storm sewers and culverts, and changing slopes of land to direct runoff away from properties.
Thought is being put toward how climate change will affect the way we interact with water. The key as Toronto moves ahead will be not copying Deer Island’s design but, rather, its spirit of proactivity. Careful planning today can save us millions of dollars in updates, construction, and even environmental cleanup in the future.”
This is encouraging, not only because Toronto is planning ahead, but because Boston has a facility that other cities and nations are looking to as a good example of infrastructure resiliency.
Inframanage.com observes that the predicted effects of climate change are developed in the Future Demand section of an infrastructure asset management plan, while resiliency can be analyzed in both the Future Demand and Risk Management sections of the plan.
Given that up to 80 percent of the lifecycle costs of an asset can be locked in at the time of design and construction, significant long term cost savings can be made by planning ahead before committing to upgrades. Toronto provides a good example of this type of approach.