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Not enough water, so moratorium placed on new development in Simcoe

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A moratorium on new development applications similar to the one in Port Dover has been imposed in Simcoe.

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Public works staff warned in December that water capacity was becoming an issue in Simcoe. On March 31, the county said the shortfall was such that new development applications will have to wait until the situation is addressed.

“We were hoping to avoid this, but unfortunately the numbers don’t lie,” Simcoe Coun. Ryan Taylor said.

Jason Godby, Norfolk’s interim general manager of public works, discussed municipal water-supply issues with Norfolk council Dec. 8.

Godby said it would take time to crunch the numbers but warned that supply issues in Simcoe were mounting as well fields were depleted or showing increasingly high concentrations of undesirable minerals such as sodium and iron.

“Staff are growing more concerned with the county’s ability to continue approving new development,” Godby said at the Dec. 8 meeting. “This is based on a review of the actual amount of water we can produce and distribute, the existing consumer demands, and the projected demands based on current development commitments.”

Due to the moratorium in Simcoe, planning staff will process new development applications to the point where they are ready for a public hearing. After that, it will be a waiting game. Taylor can’t say how long that might take.

“We definitely have to sit tight and let staff come up with solutions,” Taylor said. “There are options. It’s a matter of letting staff come back to us with the fastest options for dealing with this.”

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Over the past year, Norfolk has run tests on a potential new well field for Simcoe in the Bloomsburg area. As well, Delhi has an abundant supply of ground water that could be piped to Simcoe, just as this same supply is piped 12 kilometres from Delhi west into Courtland.

A longer-term solution Norfolk is exploring involves the “inter-urban water supply.”

Under this scenario, Norfolk would sign on as a water customer with Haldimand County. Water would be piped from Haldimand’s high-capacity treatment plant in Nanticoke into Port Dover. This solution to Port Dover’s capacity shortfall would cost an estimated $18 million.

There may also be an opportunity for a pipeline to be built connecting Simcoe to the Haldimand supply via Townsend. Council has also talked about increasing treatment capacity in Port Dover, which would solve that town’s supply issue, and then pump the surplus north to Simcoe by way of pipeline.

In a recent presentation to council, Godby said Simcoe well fields have depleted in recent years. Along with the mineral issues are concerns that a major petro-chemical spill at the county garage on the Queensway West several decades ago could pose a serious threat to the well field on Cedar Street.

Developers who had applications on file with Norfolk’s planning department at the time of Wednesday’s announcement are not affected by the moratorium in Simcoe. Planning staff will continue to steer these applications through the process.

“Addressing this potential water-supply deficiency remains a top priority for staff,” the county said in a news release. “Updates on these activities will be provided to council as they become available.”

Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts was unavailable for comment.

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