New health report identifies risks of burning sewage waste

A new City-funded health report confirms that burning Scarborough sewage poses more health risks than alternatives.

In Scarborough, a very large capital decision is being made about how one quarter of Toronto's sewage will be managed for decades to come. Will health be a deciding factor?

The Highland Creek Treatment Plant is going to be replaced with a new sewage management option and a Health Impact Assessment was done to investigate the health risks of the 3 choices. Toronto Environmental Alliance participated in this process because this sewage plant has been on our radar for a long time.

The results of the Health Impact Assessment are in and what is abundantly clear is that anything is better than what’s already there. The Highland Creek Treatment Plant is the only remaining sewage incinerator in Toronto and it is not only a major polluter in Scarborough, it is one of the top polluters in our entire city. It is Toronto's largest source of mercury pollution, which is a very harmful substance that is toxic to human health and aquatic life even in very small amounts.

Unfortunately, one of the 3 alternatives for Highland Creek is to build a new incinerator to replace the old incinerator.

While far better than the old incinerator, the Health Impact Assessment found that a new incinerator would contribute the highest releases of air pollution compared to the other two alternatives. The incinerator scored highest for respiratory, cardiovascular and cancer health risks as a result of possible exposure to air pollution as well as soil, dust and backyard contamination (Reference).

Among the three alternatives, modern fluidized bed incineration (Alternative 1) is anticipated to result in the highest releases of air pollutants.” - Toronto Public Health (2015 report)

HIA Biosolids Management Staff Report 2015

The alternative to burning sewage is sometimes referred to as 'beneficial use'. This is how the majority of Toronto's sewage is already managed at the Ashbridges Bay Treatment Plant and it's the reason why their toxic emissions and health risks are far lower than Highland Creek even though they process three times the sewage. Read more

Soon Scarborough will replace an old incinerator with a better option. The question is: do we really want to replace it with another type of incineration technology that will be just as outdated in 20 years as this one? 

Please consider attending the City of Toronto's upcoming community consultation on the future of the Highland Creek Treatment Plant. Learn about the three options and help the City make a decision that will put health and environment first.

Upcoming event

Highland Creek Treatment Plant
Public Information Meeting

Date: Thursday, November 19, 2015
Presentation and Q&A Period: 7:00 p.m
Drop-in / Open House: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m

Location: Royal Canadian Legion
45 Lawson Rd., Scarborough M1C 2J1

More details available at the City of Toronto's website:

Planning to attend? Let us know - We'll be there, too!