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Upper York Sewage Solutions

Protecting water is important to all of us. York Region provides clean, safe drinking water to nearly 50,000 homes and business around Lake Simcoe. York Region then cleans and returns treated water back to the environment where it came from. Through careful monitoring, constant testing and investment in infrastructure to service our growing communities, York Region continues to be a leader in managing our precious water sources.

What is The Upper York Sewage Solutions Project?

Once approved, York Region will be the first municipality in Canada to adopt leading-edge, advanced wastewater treatment technology that will produce water cleaner than existing water from local lakes and rivers.

To accomplish this, the proposed Upper York Sewage Solutions Project includes:

  1. A new Water Reclamation Centre (Centre) to produce clean, treated water that will flow into the East Holland River; and reclaimed water for proposed water re-use applications such as sod and tree farms. Using reclaimed water for applications like these would reduce demand on surface and groundwater resources.
  1. Modifications to the existing York Durham Sewage System (YDSS) with twinning of the wastewater forcemain through the Town of Newmarket. This will provide system reliability, reducing the risk of sewage spills.
  1. A project specific total phosphorus offsetting program, which will remove phosphorus from other sources within the Lake Simcoe watershed.  This will support initiatives to decrease phosphorus levels in the watershed and promote a healthier ecosystem.  

The total phosphorus offsetting program was developed to ensure there will be a net reduction in total phosphorus to the East Holland River related to the operation of the new system.  In order to achieve this, York Region will remove three kilograms of phosphorus for every one kilogram of additional phosphorus that the centre discharges to the watershed. We will do this by retrofitting existing stormwater management ponds and using low-impact development technologies to reduce the level of phosphorus entering the Lake Simcoe watershed.

Location and Service Area

The proposed Water Reclamation Centre will be located in the Town of East Gwillimbury. It will treat wastewater from the towns of East Gwillimbury and a portion of Newmarket which have planned growth of approximately 150,000 residents and jobs by 2031. Once operational, it will send treated clean water to the East Holland River.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Proposed Technology?

On top of conventional wastewater treatment technologies used today, the proposed Water Reclamation Centre will use proven advanced treatment technologies such as microfiltration and reverse osmosis to highly treat wastewater flowing through the facility. The water flowing out of the centre and into the East Holland River will be cleaner than the current river water quality today, helping to improve the health of the watershed. Once approved, York Region will be the first municipality in Canada to adopt leading-edge reverse osmosis technology in wastewater treatment to convert wastewater into treated clean water.

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What are the Benefits?

There are several benefits. The UYSS project will provide timely wastewater services now and through to the year 2031, while enhancing the Region’s sustainability initiatives by recycling the treated wastewater through water reuse applications.

Benefits of the Water Reclamation Centre in the Town of East Gwillimbury

  • One of a kind facility - Once operational, the Water Reclamation Centre will be more than a conventional wastewater treatment plant. Having advanced treatment technologies, such as microfiltration and reverse osmosis, the facility will convert wastewater into treated clean water that will help improve the water quality in the East Holland River. Treated water coming from the centre can also be used for future water reuse applications such as sod and tree farms, helping reduce the amount of surface water and groundwater used by industry. These proposed treatment technologies were successfully demonstrated in a one-year pilot project.

  • Smart, ecofriendly design - Blending into the community, the centre will feature unique design elements that respect and balance the community and nature. The facility will house an education centre, on-site lab, a research facility and a connection to a network of trails and footpaths around the site for residents and visitors to access year round.

Benefits of the York Durham Sewage System (YDSS) modifications in the Town of Newmarket

In Newmarket, the new sanitary sewers and modifications to two sewage pumping stations will add capacity to the existing network and provide reliable sewer service and growth potential for the community. By “twinning” the sewer network, the system will always be operational should one sewer experience a clog or go offline for routine maintenance work.

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Where are we in the Process?

After more than five years of extensive scientific study and consultation with First Nations, Métis and other stakeholders, the Individual Environmental Assessment (IEA) report was formally submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for approval on July 25, 2014.

After the IEA was submitted, the Ministry identified that further discussions between the Province and the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation were needed in order for the Province to satisfy its duty to consult with the First Nation. The Ministry, on behalf of the Province, is working to satisfy this duty.

Once the Environmental Assessment has been approved by the Ministry, the Region plans to hold public information sessions in Newmarket and East Gwillimbury to discuss construction timing and details in advance of any major work beginning.  Further consultation with Indigenous peoples will also occur.

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What is an Individual Environmental Assessment?

Individual Environmental Assessments (IEA) are extensive studies and reports prepared for large-scale, complex projects with the potential for significant environmental effects. Before these projects can move into the construction phase, they require approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, including sign-off from the Minister.

Learn more about the Individual Environmental Assessment Process.

What has York Region done to satisfy the requirements of the IEA?

York Region completed extensive consultation and technical studies as part of the IEA in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of existing conditions, and to assess impacts to the local communities and natural environment. Examples of the technical studies completed include the proposed Water Reclamation Centre’s impact on:

  • Aquatic habitat and species in the East Holland River
  • The temperature of the East Holland River
  • The community (i.e. noise, traffic and vibration during construction and operation of the facility)
  • The natural environment during construction (i.e. water quality, groundwater and surface water)
View the list of the studies performed.

During the IEA phase, who has York Region consulted with?

York Region had considerable consultation with the community, review agencies (i.e. the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority), First Nations, Métis organizations, and the general public throughout the UYSS IEA process. York Region received input at 10 key decision-making milestones within seven consultation rounds.

Explore the project website for full details.

Quick Consultation Facts:

  • York Region used a variety of consultation methods to consult with the public including: community and individual meetings; public meetings, which included public information forums, workshops, drop-in Tuesdays at a local storefront project office, open houses; and maintained a project office and project website
  • Over 1,850 members of the public were involved, including property owners, residents, ratepayer groups, environmental organizations, and businesses
  • Fourteen First Nations and two Métis Organizations were consulted through group meetings and written correspondence
  • York Region consulted with a total of 36 review agencies, including federal and provincial agencies, conservation authorities, local municipalities, and utilities. The Region also met with 19 of those agencies a total of 64 times  
  • Over 820 people attended the project’s nine public meetings between May 2010 and January 2014

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What About Medicine In The Water?

I have heard about medicine (pharmaceuticals) in the water. Should I be concerned?

Trace substances, including medicines and personal care products, have likely been present in water for decades, but only identified in the last 10 years due to advances in analytical machines that are now able to measure trace concentrations in parts per trillion or even smaller – that is equivalent to one-half drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pools.

Concentrations of medicines and personal care products are typically very low (parts per trillion) and likely represent low risk to human and ecological health. 

No clear relationships have been established between the low levels of medicines detected in water and adverse effects in humans and wildlife, studies are ongoing.

Be a water hero! Help us spread the word on how to properly dispose of unused medicines and vitamins

What are medicines and personal care products (PPCPs)?

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, they are defined as: “any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. PPCPs [pharmaceuticals and personal care products] comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances and cosmetics.”

Are Medicines and Personal Care Products in the water a threat?

The federal and provincial governments currently do not consider medicines and personal care products to be a human health threat in our waters because they have only been found in minute concentrations and it would take the consumption of millions of litres of water to receive any significant concentration approaching a typical dose of medicine.

Can medicines and personal care products be removed from wastewater?

Scientific studies demonstrate that reverse osmosis is the most effective treatment method to remove medicines and personal care products, following microfiltration systems. The proposed Water Reclamation Centre is the first facility to employ both of these technologies and will have the best removal of medicines and personal care products in Canada.

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What are the Wastewater Treatment Processes on Lake Simcoe?

How is wastewater treated at the existing Keswick Water Resource Recovery Facility?

The first step (preliminary treatment) removes debris and larger particles from wastewater. The second step (secondary treatment) uses microbes and biological reactions to break down and remove organic matter. Some wastewater facilities on Lake Simcoe go a step further to treat wastewater (i.e. tertiary treatment).

In York Region, the award-winning Keswick Water Resource Recovery Facility was the first municipal wastewater treatment plant in Ontario to use membrane filtration technology for wastewater treatment.

The third step (tertiary treatment) removes substances using very fine filtering (such as membrane filtration) before disinfecting the treated water with ultra-violet light to destroy disease-causing microorganisms before the clean treated water is returned to the watershed.  Today both the Keswick and Sutton Water Resource Recovery Facilities use tertiary treatment before returning treated water back to Lake Simcoe.

How will the proposed treatment at the Water Reclamation Centre differ from conventional wastewater treatment?

The treatment process will be similar to the Keswick Water Resource Recovery Facility except there will be an additional stage of treatment, reverse osmosis, before the ultra-violet disinfection process. This will allow for a greater degree of wastewater treatment.

Is treated water from Lake Simcoe safe to drink?

One York Region municipality (the Town of Georgina) and many other cities and towns outside of the Region rely on Lake Simcoe as a drinking water source, treating the lake’s raw water at water treatment plants and do not have water quality issues or concerns.

What is effluent?

Effluent is treated wastewater that flows out of a wastewater treatment plant and back into the environment.

What is phosphorous?

Phosphorus occurs naturally in the environment and is an essential nutrient needed by plants and animals. Phosphorus is a nutrient, so high levels in a lake encourage the growth of plants and algae. Although some phosphorus is required to support a healthy aquatic ecosystem, too much phosphorus leads to excessive growth of plants and algae in a lake. As these plants decay, dissolved oxygen required by fish and other aquatic species is depleted.

What is reclaimed water?

Reclaimed water is wastewater that has gone through various treatment processes to meet specific water quality criteria with the intent of being used again in a beneficial manner (i.e. irrigation and industrial uses). Recycling our water, or using reclaimed water, is an environmentally friendly way to reduce our demand on surface water and groundwater. Applications of reclaimed water will be regulated by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Will the Holland Landing Water Pollution Control Plant remain in operation when the Water Reclamation Centre is built?

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change will approve decommissioning of the Holland Landing Water Pollution Control Plant (lagoons) after the Water Reclamation Centre is built and operating.

For more information on the Upper York Sewage Solutions Project, please contact 1-877-464-9675 or

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  Updated on January 19, 2018

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