6.0 Perth Catchment: Accomplishments
Achievements and activities noted by the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association (FoTW) are indicated by an asterisk.*
4.6 kilometres of the Tay River in the catchment have been surveyed and seven headwaters sites are sampled once every six years by the RVCA using the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol.
The report "Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed: Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement" was prepared in 2002 by MNR, RVCA, Parks Canada and DFO. A number of specific fish habitat enhancement projects are identified in the report to improve the fishery along the Tay River (see pp. 86-92). One such project identified along the reach of the Tay River in the Town of Perth includes the refurbishment of the two Haggart Island dams. Both of these structures have now been replaced with a rocky ramp on the Little Tay River (in 2015) and another one on the Tay River (in 2017)(see section 5.4 of this report).
The Friends of the Tay Watershed and RVCA developed the Wendy Laut Ribbon of Life demonstration area in Last Duel Park alongside the Tay River. Recently, the Perth Horticultural Society has updated the area.*
4554 native trees and shrubs have been planted along 764 metres of shoreline at various locations along the Tay River in the Town of Perth with services provided by the RVCA Shoreline Naturalization Program.
Following a successful field trial and Environmental Assessment, the Town of Perth advanced the implementation of the geotube back technology (Bishop Water Technologies-Eganville, ON) to remove solids from the discharged water. The processes involved the re-routing of process water into large porous geotextile bags that allow water to weep through the surface of the bag while retaining the solids inside the vessel. The three (3) large geotube bags are alternated daily to allow the solids enough time to dewater and consolidate throughout the seasons. One (1) of the bags is placed in a large greenhouse to allow filtering process to continue during freezing temperatures.
The Town of Perth meets the guidelines of 15mg/l of Total Suspended Solids in the discharged water that returns to the Tay River. Since 2015 approximately 550 tonnes of solids are captured annually within the geotube system. This material is harvested from each of the geotube bags and transported to the Perth Landfill Site and used for daily cover of waste. This process also prevented process water from being conveyed and treated at the Perth Wastewater Facility, which would inherently require capital costs in piping and pump stations as well as negatively affecting development capacity for the municipality.
The Town of Perth wastewater treatment facility is located on the south side of the Tay River, adjacent to the Tay Marsh. The outflow from the Perth sewage lagoons has impacted water downstream for decades. Outflow quality has, on the average, been within provincial limits, but inevitably has had an impact on the Tay Marsh and is one of (many) sources encouraging excessive vegetation growth in the wetland, which damages its fish and wildlife habitat. In response to concerns raised about the impact of the Town of Perth sewage lagoons on the Tay River and Tay Marsh, the Town has taken action over the years to reduce its effect on surface water quality in the system, which, from cursory observation has been beneficial, and more recently enhanced with an innovative phosphorus reduction system.*
Further to this observation, it is stated in the Infrastructure Master Plan for the Western Annex in the Town of Perth (Jp2g Consultants, Jan.2019) that, since 2007, the Town has undergone an intensive wet weather flow reduction program, including sealing and repair work of sewers, elimination of combined sewers and sealing and elevating manholes. These efforts have successfully reduced average inflows to the lagoon and the wet weather program is continuing with further improvements expected.
Perth completed the installation of the SAGR (Submerged Attached Growth Reactor) system in the fall of 2018. This $11 million project focused on providing tertiary treatment to the Town's existing wastewater lagoon system and has also increased the development capacity of the municipality to an equivalent of 8200 residents. Results throughout 2019 have shown dramatic decreases in E-coli, ammonia, total suspended solids, and ammonia levels using the new treatment system. The SAGR uses aeration and naturally-occurring biological processes to breakdown and polish sewage waste without chemicals or the need for mechanical processes.
In collaboration with the Town of Perth, the Friends of the Tay Watershed sampled stormwater during the first flush of a rain event on 29 September 2015. Thirty samples were taken during this single event from six access points along the lower five blocks of the Town of Perth’s Wilson Street Stormwater Drain, from Leslie Street to Herriott Street, adjacent to the outfall into the Little Tay River. Samples were analysed for E coli, Fecal Strep, Total Suspended Solids, Phosphates, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, and Sodium. Additionally, temperature at capture, pH, Colour, Alkalinity and Turbidity were measured and recorded by Town of Perth Water Treatment Plant staff. Further information has been gathered about the extent of contaminant levels in local storm water in the Wilson Street Stormwater Drain. The sources of contamination appear to be from the washing of large, more heavily trafficked paved surfaces, such as parking lots and major roads. No particular trends were displayed along the length of the Drain studied. Besides indicating the sources and extent of E. coli content in the system, this assessment raises additional concerns needing further study, including the consequences of river contamination by the nutrients and suspended solids discharged with urban storm water.*
The Friends of the Tay Watershed sampled three sites along the Tay River in 2013, all popular swimming spots in Perth. All showed high levels of E. coli after rain but not before; likely due to untreated stormwater being channelled quickly into the Tay River. Before rain event E. coli levels were higher even though temperatures were a little lower, possibly due to more and heavier rains resulting in near-flooding conditions along the Tay River and strong water currents. In mid-September 2014, three more sites were sampled by FoTW along the Tay River in Perth. Ten samples were taken in close proximity to two storm sewer outflows. Five more samples were taken farther downstream in Perth, but not near any stormwater outflows. All were taken within an hour of the start of light rain and the arithmetically averaged geometric mean from the test samples was 993 units of E. coli per 100 ml of water. All of the previously elevated E. coli counts had returned to “normal” levels close to or within the safe-to-swim limit of 100 units of E. coli per 100 ml. of water, 24 hours after the rain had stopped, with an average geometric mean of 83 E. coli per 100 ml. of water. All samples taken near the outflows were much higher than those taken some distance from any outflow. These findings complete the FoTW testing picture that shows consistently low and swimmable levels of E. coli before rain events and also within 24 hours of a rain event, but that levels of E. coli are, however, consistently higher even after a light rain and dangerously high near storm sewer outflows.*
The 2011 Perth Catchment Report and water testing records for the Town of Perth have been a major help in monitoring and determining activity in this sector. As in any urban area, Perth has an impact on the water quality in its Tay River. The Town has generally taken this seriously and attempted to mitigate it, with innovative and environmentally sensitive approaches. Both RVCA and the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association have presumably been instrumental in pointing out need and have cooperated with the Town of Perth in determining and following up actions.*
Three stream monitoring sites on the Tay River in the Town of Perth are sampled yearly by the RVCA for 22 parameters at each location, six times a year, to assess surface chemistry water quality conditions.
Eighteen Rural Clean Water Program projects were completed by the RVCA Rural Clean Water Program.
Watershed Planning and Management
The Tay Watershed Management Plan (2002) brought together a diverse group of watershed stakeholders to exchange information and opinions on the challenges facing the watershed. This forum focused the community on the need for managing the Tay Watershed, requiring positive cooperation amongst a range of stakeholders and helped develop a foundation of data and information on the watershed and resources against which later developments and trends are being measured and decisions are being made.
The Plan also led to the formation of the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association, who have been instrumental in implementing 20 of 24 management plan recommendations. In the opinion of the Association, one of the most significant measures of success for the water protection activities carried out in the Tay watershed is that there has never been a serious environmental pollution incident that threatened the area’s drinking water or its recreational waterbodies. To this day, the Friends of the Tay Watershed remain committed to preserving and enhancing the health of the Tay River watershed through their work, including:
- Building an understanding of the Tay River and promoting the Tay Canal and need for its care. RVCA catchment reports have played a major role in this by documenting it and its needs.
- Increasing awareness of the Tay Wildlife Reserve, helping promote the Butterfly Garden at the Reserve (in the 2009 Anniversary celebration), researching the Canal’s history and documenting it in an interpretive panel at the Reserve, and working with RVCA in placing a canoe/boat dock at the Reserve. The launch of the Tay Canal tour boat, by private individuals, was done to provide a means of bringing residents to the Tay River and Canal, and educating them about it.
- Bursaries to high school students proceeding to an environment degree as well as continuing post-secondary students.
- Development of interpretive panels for Source Water Protection (eg. Glen Tay catchment area) and the Tay River viewpoint (along the Tay Trail).
- Environmental Awards.
- Outreach to children and schools as well as the public through initiatives such as the Perth Maple Fest, the Stewart Park Festival and the Association's annual Tay Watershed Discovery Day that increases awareness of the importance of the Tay River and area lakes to the health of the Tay Watershed.
- Submissions to government on regulatory reviews (eg. Climate change action; Conservation Authority Act) and the Rideau Canal Management Plan.
- Support to other environmental, watershed organisations (e.g., Lake Links, Lake Networking Group).