PaBIA Remarks to ToA Council

­ 7/18/14

Introduction: Good afternoon, I am Dan Kuhn, President of PaBIA, and I want to thank you for the opportunity to address Council on the issue of Sturgeon Bay remediation for blue­green algae.

But before I do, I would like to be clear about how PaBIA sees its involvement, and hopefully, this will avoid any misunderstanding that might cloud our method or our intent.

As one of the largest and long standing associations on the Georgian Bay:

We do not, nor will we ever attempt, to specifically “represent” Ward 3 ­ this is the role of our respective councilors.

  1. We do not, nor will we ever attempt, to specifically “represent” Ward 3 ­ this is the role of our respective councilors.
  2.  We are an association, who is accountable solely to its members, presently 659, who are not all from Ward 3. Although, I believe that our members represent a significant part of Ward 3’s ratepayers (939).
  3. As you may understand, our focus is to work, in relevant areas, for the betterment of our members and our community. Some recent examples of such work are:
    • We annually support the ToA water quality­monitoring program for our waters;
    • We promote water safety in our local waters ­ in lieu of OPP patrolling;
    • We annually support the PaB Emergency and Response Team, better known as PaBERT;
    • We have sought a “community” permit to remediate low water impacts for Hemlock Channel;
    • We communicated our objection to recent proposals that would relocate OPP funding to smaller municipalities;
    • We have spent almost a year reviewing the OP, working with your staff, and will, shortly, recommend some changes;
    • We have advocated for the transfer of the PaB Lighthouse to the Township; and
    • We have been monitoring local timbering to learn whether it impacts on our watershed.

Why are we so keen to promote Community?

PaB started as an island community ­ and even after it moved inland to meet the needs of cottagers traveling by train and then automobile, we think of PaB as our community. Just this year, as I have mentioned, PaBIA documented the value that our Lighthouse plays as the sole icon for PaB, in hopes the documentation would help us preserve the Lighthouse.  We see PaB, solely as a community ­ and do not consider any particular area or neighborhood as separate or exclusive…

  1. Some residents of the greater Sturgeon Bay are members of PaBIA;
  2. The Sturgeon Bay Association makes an annual donation to PaBIA’s Marine Patrol for services rendered;
  3. Contractors and other businesses in the greater Sturgeon Bay, rely on work or the purchase of other services from cottagers throughout our island community ­ most are members, who are represented by PaBIA;
  4. There have been some reports of algae blooms in an island bay that, as Sturgeon Bay, suffers from modest to little circulation/flushing. Accordingly, we view with concern the recent migration of algae that extended beyond the area defined as Basin A;
  5. If nothing is done and recent low water trends become a repeated reality, cottagers in Ward 3, for example, would be compelled to bear the cost of increased taxes over a much longer period than 10 years, when diminished Sturgeon Bay property values and taxes compel the reallocation of the Township’s annual operating costs to rate payers with stable or increasing property values.

PaBIA has worked, over the years, to minimize the sense or perception of living in a “we/they” community. This perception is fostered when we, as a community, act in ways that tend to emphasize uniqueness or appear to disregard the views of a constituent group. These separating decisions promote resentment that makes our community divisive and less effective, while complicating real progress.

Just the physical configuration of Wards 1 and 3, whether inadvertent or intentional, has historically tended to promote this sense of “we/they. ” In my experience with PaBIA, I and other Presidents, have made it a priority to find ways that minimize this tension.

I would suggest to you, that your investments in PaB: the Community Center, the modernization and expansion of our public docks, the ongoing work to provide a permanent transfer station, and the future improvements to the Nursing Station, all significantly help to bring the community of PaB closer together, which helps us reduce the latent tension that results when affected folks view the community as “we/they.”

Could your support for Sturgeon Bay remediation do the same?

Why do we support Sturgeon Bay Remediation?

PaBIA’s Executive Board choose to make a public statement at the July 5 public meeting because:

  1. Upon review of your announcement letter, we were concerned by the tone and content of the letter; and
  2. We believe, as I previously stated, that the remediation of Sturgeon Bay algae is a broader community problem.

Only one Phoslock Company was referenced in the letter and, it did not appear to have a record of project successes. This fact was used in the letter and the public presentation to diminish the likelihood for a successful Phoslock remediation. This is a concern, when there appears to be more than one company that has performed Phoslock remediation in Canada, and, they have apparently done so with some success.

Given the apparent qualifications and caveats by Phoslock Pty Ltd, why weren’t other Phoslock providers consulted for their assessment, quotation, then reviewed for the validity of their success with Canadian Phoslock applications?

I offer you two such examples, there may be more:

  1. Phoslock Water Solutions (PHK) completed a Phoslock application to treat an urban lake in the Greater Toronto Area. Although Phoslock has been used in Ontario on storm water retention ponds, drainage canals and a variety of other water bodies, the Toronto project was the first time that an urban lake was treated with Phoslock. The lake, a former gravel pit, was dug for residential development NE of Toronto. The lake had a long history of blue green algal blooms. Following complaints from local residents, the city, upon performing baseline water quality monitoring, selected PHK’s proposed use of Phoslock to fix the problem. PHK has done several major projects in the US, Canada, and Europe. It completed three lake projects in the UK, and its US licensee: SePRO Corporation recently completed the two largest Phoslock projects undertaken in the US.
  2. Greenland International­ Consulting Engineers. Loafer’s Lake is in Brampton, Ontario. It is a 2.4­ hectare by 4.1m deep lake that was built within a known floodplain. The lake had begun to experience excessive algae bloom that led to a significant odor problem. The city staff concluded that the algae bloom was caused by elevated levels of phosphorus and focused on the need to eliminate the re­release of phosphorus from the accumulated sediments at the bottom of the lake, while attempting to reduce other nutrient sources that drained into the lake. The City of Brampton retained Greenland International (2012) to address the problem. Greenland analyzed baseline water quality and lake bed sediment and proposed to:
    1. Remove most of the underlying vegetation, and apply ten (10) tons of Phoslock to bind the soluble Phosphorus and cap the residual phosphorus in the lake’s sediments.
    2. Accurate forecasting of weather conditions by Greenland was considered to be critical to achieving successful results.
    3. Phoslock performance monitoring by Greenland was completed at key milestones after the application including: 2 weeks, 6 months, 7.5 months and 9.5 months.
    4. When compared to the 2012 baseline, total phosphorus levels declined from 0.053 mg/L to 0.024 mg/L. A further decrease to 0.020 mg/L was observed at 6 months. Although a slight increase to 0.031 mg/L was observed in June 19, 2013, another decrease to 0.025 mg/L was recorded in the final sampling, on August 20, 2013.
    5. 10 months after Phoslock was used to cap residual Phosphorus in the lake’s sediment, the lake had a 52% reduction in phosphorus; Water clarity was significantly improved throughout the lake, and, there were no adverse impacts to lake biology or botany.

ToA Public Meeting letter: a precipitating concern

The Public Meeting letter briefly referenced, Phoslock Pty Ltd’s solution as, “three staggered Phoslock water applications” without the benefit of any further explanation or justification. Given the $300,000 cost, some would suggest that this part of the letter and the public presentation was understated and insufficient to base any public decision.

The letter further stated, “the waters will never be crystal clear, probably small algae blooms will always occur, and there is a possibility that a larger bloom may happen. Was this comment actually stated by Phoslock Pty Ltd in their proposal, or was this a general perception of Council, and if so, what was the basis for the perception and comment?

The letter goes on to state that Council has a concern regarding the impact from “winter runoff of nutrient rich water,” and that this run­off could reduce the success of the proposed Phoslock remediation.

  1. Since winter run­off is viewed as a Council concern, we would like to know the extent of such seasonal run­off and, most certainly, the source or sources.
  2. Collaterally, we understand that previous work to address the historic nutrient rich run­off from Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park has been completed. Does the letter’s reference suggest a further problem with seasonal run­off from Sturgeon Bay Provincial Park? If so, what is the Council doing to eliminate this threat to Sturgeon Bay ­ let alone to reduce the run­off’s impact on a Phoslock remediation for Sturgeon Bay?
  3. Additionally, if the run­off, referenced by Council, can be attributed to the Provincial Park, why doesn’t this run­off qualify for Provincial or Federal assistance?
  4. We suggest that if a solution to this problem were to be incorporated into the remediation plan, the potential for a successful Phoslock remediation would be improved.

The Public Meeting letter also stated, that Council was concerned that “the flush of water out of Sturgeon Bay” could further reduce the impact of the proposed Phoslock remediation.

  1. We find this statement to be a bit curious, in that, the lack of flushing in Sturgeon Bay was also mentioned in the ToA presentation, as a contributing factor to promoting algae blooms and that there was no practical or economical solution to improve the limited rate of water exchange in Sturgeon Bay.
  2. Given the geography of Sturgeon Bay, it would appear that any water exchange is principally weather based. One of the referenced Phoslock companies incorporated accurate weather monitoring as a critical factor in the success of their Phoslock application to avoid needless dilution from heavy rains.
  3. Rather than implying that the limited “flushing” is another reason to further depreciate the value of a Phoslock solution, why doesn’t the ToA require Phoslock Pty Ltd, or any other firm considered, to anticipate weather as a key factor to project success, and then work to schedule Phoslock applications for periods when weather is less likely to have an impact. Additionally, to do this, while requiring weather monitoring to further minimize the impact of weather, determined flushing/dilution on application Phoslock.

An additional Council concern was that, while the remediation may be initially successful, there was uncertainty about the length of time that the application would be effective. Since there were no references to the expected efficacy stated in the Phoslock Pty Ltd proposal, it is difficult to determine whether the concern is imagined or has substance.

  1. If the concern was based on the proposal ­ do other companies operating in Canada, share this concern, or do they offer possible options that would help reduce this concern?
  2. I ask this, because the cost of the application is less than half the proposed cost of monitoring, which might suggest that an option or phase could be reasonably added, to give us more flexibility to improve the project’s results? And could possibly do so ­ without much incremental impact on the ratepayers.

In researching Phoslock solutions, I have not found any reference to the need for long term monitoring to determine collateral impacts from a Phoslock remediation. Rather, I have found that the water quality improves relatively quickly without negative impacts on water biology. So, what is the real reason for this burdensome imposition?

  1. In the public meeting, it was mentioned that the extent of monitoring was mandated by the Provincial government and not negotiable. It would appear that given the extent of algae problems within the Province and their focus on remediation of human/animal based algae, that the $700,000 is not the cost to simply ensure that Sturgeon Bay’s water remains healthy.
  2. Several cottagers have voiced concern over the real intent of the monitoring and have questioned the length of the monitoring period. If the Provincial government is using our need for a remediation permit to gain more data about Ontario’s algae problems, and does so at local rate payers expense, we believe this to be an unfair burden, that our rate payers should not have to bear.
  3. If our assumption of Provincial intent is realistic, what has Council done, or could do, to seek relief for this unfortunate and seemingly, unnecessary burden? It would appear that this decision was a bureaucratic one that needs to be elevated to a more responsible level of government.
  4. Lastly, I do wonder, whether the ToA would have been more proactive, in this regard ­ had there been more internal support/belief that a Phoslock remediation would work in Sturgeon Bay ­ I only mention this after reading the many concerns, as they are stated in your letter.

Cost Allocation: are there other ways?

We believe that the cost model proposed in the Public Meeting letter to be well intended ­ and, we want to thank Council for your decision to help affected Sturgeon Bay rate payers with the cost of the proposed remediation.

As stated previously, PaBIA truly believes that the algae problem in Sturgeon Bay is a community problem that can and should be borne by a wider portion of our community. Since publishing our position and intent in PaBIA’s weekly email newsletter to members, I have received several comments of member support and have yet to receive a negative one.

PaBIA is solely an association of members, who just happens to be a significant part of Ward 3. We cannot, nor do we want to, speak for all the residents of Ward 1 or Ward 3. We, simply, want to share our concern for the issues raised in this presentation and to express our concern for the implications of the proposed cost allocation model.

If implemented as proposed, those identified Sturgeon Bay rater payers would pay $400.00 per year for some 10 years. We believe that the problem is more complex and should be spread across a larger base of rate payers, that, to some extent, appear to share the belief that this is a community problem and if supported by Council, would have a much more nominal cost to the participating rate payers.

Accordingly, we request, that you revisit the decision regarding allocation of Sturgeon Bay’s remediation costs.

  1. As you have already demonstrated by determining the cost allocation model presented in the Public Meeting letter, we believe that you have the ability to reconsider how Council chooses to allocate these costs, should remediation be pursued.
  2. We request your review of the issue and ask that you elect to pursue an alternative cost model that better supports a belief that the algae in Sturgeon Bay is not the exclusive problem of rate payers who enjoy water access to Sturgeon Bay.
  3. We hope you can appreciate our concern for the consequences of allocating these costs to a very small and unique base of ratepayers, when the impact the algae bloom, appears to be a broader one.

We do hope that Council will reconsider their current cost allocation model and will attempt to help us, by finding a means, where the cost of remediation is better allocated to a broader portion of our community.

In closing In all honesty, after reading the Public Meeting letter, I and the other members of PaBIA’s Board, concluded that Council, for its own reasons, does not appear to have the heart to do what is needed in Sturgeon Bay.

We do hope that this is not the case. However, it is for this reason that PaBIA elected to comment at the public meeting and subsequently has agreed to address Council, today.

As regards the issue of Sturgeon Bay blue­green algae and its remediation, we appreciate the opportunity to share our perceptions, our concerns, our questions, and most importantly, our requests. I do thank you, for allowing PaBIA to be a part of the dialogue on this issue!