Amid the extensive construction currently causing havoc for locals and visitors alike at Orillia’s waterfront, the city is installing infrastructure that municipal officials say will benefit the health of Lake Couchiching well into the future.
Unlike other aspects of the work unfolding along Centennial Drive, the city’s new stormwater control structures will be buried underground, out of sight and mind, and they will help keep worrisome contaminants out of the lake.
As it stands, stormwater currently runs unfiltered from Orillia’s streets into Lake Couchiching, gathering various contaminants along the way. But the new structures will capture stormwater runoff in the Centennial Drive area and filter the water before it flows onward to the lake.
If you’ve spent time at the waterfront while construction takes place, you may have noticed a series of 12-foot high concrete pipes awaiting installation beneath the street. Those pipes will serve as the stormwater control structures that are part of the $17.8 million second phase of the city’s Centennial Drive reconstruction project.
Ward 4 councillor Tim Lauer says the stormwater infrastructure is critical for the city and the lake.
“All the water that generally used to run off the hills in Orillia and down into the lake, untreated, raw phosphorus and oil, will now be intercepted by this catchment system,” Lauer told OrilliaMatters.
The phosphorus found in lawn fertilizer, pet waste, oil from vehicles, and other contaminants have been “feeding the lake for years,” Lauer said, noting adverse consequences such as reduced water quality, excessive growth of underwater vegetation, and sediment that needs to be dredged from the lake.
To combat that, three stormwater structures are being installed along Centennial Drive this summer.
“There’s quite a bit of water that comes through in that spot,” Lauer explained. “All that’s happening is instead of these (outflow) pipes going directly into the water, these pipes plug into a big tank, and then it sits there because it can’t get out of that tank until it reaches a certain level.”
Water will sit in the structure, where contaminants settle to the bottom before it flows out and into the lake.
“It goes in there and sits; the sediment settles, the contaminants settle as much as they can, and then when that reaches a certain level, it flows,” Lauer said.
City staff will also remove contaminants from the bottom of the structures every year, Lauer said.
The infrastructure comes as an alternative to other possible solutions, such as the construction of a stormwater pond.
“Given the space constraints down there, it was decided that they would go with this method and basically bury the whole thing under the roadway. People won’t know it’s there,” Lauer said.
Moving forward, Lauer said the city plans to install stormwater infrastructure at numerous city outflow points into Lake Couchiching as dictated by its stormwater masterplan.
When put together a number of years ago, the city initially planned to carry out its stormwater work over 25 years, but Lauer said the city has accelerated its schedule.
“We’re talking about the health of the lake,” Lauer said. “We’re just going to work all along the lake shore, and I’m hoping that it doesn’t take any more than 10 years.”
More may be read about the Centennial Drive project here.