You Can’t Separate the Watershed from the Water….And You Can Have Your Say About it

Posted on May 1, 2019 in Conservation Areas, Environmental Education, General

By Deborah Martin-Downs, Chief Administrative Officer, Credit Valley Conservation

I learned early in my career the importance of the relationship between the land and water. How different geology, soils and landforms influence the types of streams and habitats in rivers. That to understand water bodies, I needed to understand the watershed.

A watershed is an area of land that drains its rain and snow-melt into a body of water, which flows to a larger water-body, which ultimately flows to a lake, river or ocean. The Credit River, which is 97 kilometres long, drains an area of 950 square kilometres containing forests, wetlands, towns, cities, gravel pits and farmlands.

Early conservationists and scientists knew the watershed was the logical unit of study to manage flooding and drought problems of the time. Managing natural resources at the watershed scale was deemed the best solution, and in 1946, Ontario’s first Conservation Authorities Act was passed.

The Act allowed conservation authorities to be formed across Ontario on a watershed basis (not municipal boundaries). The Act gave conservation authorities the powers “to study and investigate the watershed and to determine a program whereby the natural resources of the watershed may be conserved, restored, developed and managed” for both provincial and municipal interests.

Over decades, the Act has been updated to address changing conditions. When Hurricane Hazel struck in 1954, the province added powers “to control the flow of surface waters in order to prevent floods or pollution or to reduce the adverse effects thereof”.

After the 2006 inquiry report into the Walkerton tragedy, the province restated that the watershed was the logical unit to address drinking water protection. Source water protection areas were set-up based on existing conservation authorities’ watershed boundaries.

In 2017, the Ontario government took a bold step to modernize the Conservation Authorities Act by passing the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017. The renewed legislation reaffirmed the importance of Ontario’s conservation authorities and continued to recognize the fundamental value of managing natural resources on a watershed basis.

Arguably our most significant role is determining the extent of floodplains and ensuring people are kept safe from flooding. Section 28 of the Conservation Authorities Act, as amended by 2017 updates, prohibits “development in areas related to natural hazards such as floodplains, shorelines, wetlands and hazardous lands (i.e. lands that could be unsafe for development because of naturally occurring processes associated with flooding, [and] erosion…)”.

This role often frustrates any one or any company seeking a permit from a conservation authority. That is, however, until they’re faced with the enormous consequences and costs of a major flood.

As I write this, eight states of emergencies are in effect in Ontario and Quebec because of severe flooding. Thousands of residents have been forced from homes. Sand bags line streets and homes in attempts to hold back rushing waters. Rain and rising water remain in forecasts.

The Province of Ontario recognizes the importance of flooding and climate change in their introduction to new proposals to once again update the Conservation Authorities Act: and

The proposed changes continue to include natural hazard and management as a core mandate as well as adding drinking water source protection to it. The important reference to watershed, however, no longer appears.

Is this oversight or intentional?

Floodplains can only be managed if we look up the watershed and review proposals that may impact water runoff. We can watch floodplains get bigger or we can actively engage in managing, and perhaps reducing, them.

We cannot manage the quality and quantity of drinking water if we are not looking at an entire watershed. We must ensure that the water to support supply continues to get where it needs to go.

We must continue studying and mapping hazards and risk. We need to ensure there are enough healthy natural resources in watersheds to absorb heavier rains and snow-melts that are now more frequent and severe, and forecast to worsen.

Conservation authorities are proud to continue working with the province and our municipal partners to manage for natural hazards in Ontario.

For over 60 years, water and watersheds have been inseparable in Ontario. Let’s help the province understand that you can’t separate the watershed from the water.

What can you do?

Tell our government that budget cuts to conservation authorities will put public safety at risk, and this is not acceptable.

Tell them that our forefathers had it right – someone must be looking out for the watershed. Conservation authorities have done that in Ontario for decades. That work needs to continue to protect peoples’ lives and properties.

Tell them you value work on-the-ground to make residents safe and our natural environment more resilient.

There is no one else doing what conservation authorities do in this province.

Without our work, Ontario will be a less desirable, less prosperous place to be.

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Town of Caledon Mayor and Councillors in Belfountain – May 11th 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Join Mayor Allan Thompson and Ward 1 Councillors Ian Sinclair and Lynn Kiernan for coffee and conversation.

Join this interactive session and learn more from Town staff about the Transit Feasibility Study, the Traffic Calming Strategy and Broadband Connectivity.

Ask questions, give feedback and connect with your Council.

Saturday, May 11, 2019
Drop in between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm
Belfountain Community Hall

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Belfountain Community Clean Up Day – Sat. May 11 at 9.a.m. Please Join Us!

Belfountain Neighbourhood Watch and the BCO would like to invite you to participate in

Belfountain Community Clean-Up Day

Saturday, May 11th

9am to 11am

Volunteers Needed!

Get involved and make a difference! 

Invite your neighbours to get out and help pick up litter in our neighbourhood.

Meet at the commons area at the corner of Bush Street and Old Main Road at 9am.

Litter cleanup bags and gloves will be provided.

Please wear closed-toed shoes.

Student service hours available.

Volunteers under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

To volunteer, please email  or

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Cut the Crap, Keep the Credit

Belfountain is asking for your help to “STOP” the Town of Erin from building a Waste Water Treatment Plant that will dump its effluent into the West Credit River. 

Please sign this petition!

For further information, visit

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May 2019 Blood Donor Clinics

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New Heritage Caledon Designation Brochure

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OPP Investigating Two Business Break and Enters in Caledon

Belfountain has a Neighbourhood Watch Program.  Click this link to find out more:

A new media release has been made by the OPP for Caledon.

Officers from the Caledon detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are investigating two business break and enters that occurred between April 14th and April 21st, 2019, on Highway 10 between King Street and Old Base Line Road in the town of Caledon.

One of the incidents occurred sometime between Sunday, April 14th, 3:45 p.m. and Monday, April 15th, 8:45 a.m. at a business located at Highway 10 and Old Base Line Road. The unknown suspect(s) gained entry through the front door by breaking the lock. A cash register containing money was reported stolen.

The second business break and enter occurred on Sunday, April 21st, at approximately 11:58 p.m. in the area of Highway 10 and King Street. Two suspects broke the front glass door, entered the premises and stole a cash box containing money. They were last seen traveling southbound on Highway 10.

During the second incident, the culprits were captured on security video. The suspect vehicle is described as a white work truck with wood pallets in the bed and a black rack on the top of the back. Both suspects are male; they were wearing gloves, had their hoods up and faces covered.

If you recognize the suspects or have any information in relation to these break and enters, please call the Caledon Community Street Crime Unit at (905) 584-2241 or 1-888-310-1122.

 You can also provide information anonymously by contacting Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or online at When you contact Crime Stoppers you stay anonymous, you never have to testify, and you could receive a cash reward of up to $2,000 upon an arrest.

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Have Your Say – Development Charges – Town of Caledon Public Meeting April 23 at 1 p.m.

Development charges are new fees paid by developers to help cover the initial capital cost of infrastructure required to accomodate service growth. This infrastructure may include roads, sidewalks, recreational facilities, libraries, parks, fire stations and other infrastructure needed to support complete communities.

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Watch and Listen to Tim Gray in Belfountain

The link below connects you to the YouTube video of Tim Gray’s presentation at the Belfountain Community Organization Meeting March 26th, 2019. Tim is Executive Director of Environmental Defence.

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It Runs Downstream (Erin Waste Water Treatment Plant)

What we learned:

  • Erin is expected to triple in size from 4,415 to 14,500 residents creating housing, industrial and commercial area, a school, new roads and a waste water treatment plant.
  • Chemically treated effluent from Erin and Hillsburgh is proposed to be discharged into the West Credit River at Winston Churchill – 3 km upstream from Belfountain.
  • Treating waste water does not remove endocrine disruptors, estrogen-based compounds, salt from roads, medications, biotoxins, micro-plastics from laundry, salt loads/ammonia from water softeners tied to household sewage.
  • The WCR cold-water native trout fishery, habitat and health of our river will collapse.
  • Residents use water from the West Credit as source water for their household

What you can do:

Email, write or call Sylvia Jones, MPP Caledon, the Town of Caledon, Region of Peel, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to address your concerns:

  • Require objective and expert peer reviewing of the environmental processes leading up to approval of the EA for the waste water treatment plant.
  • Appeal to the Minister that this WWTP not be approved, full build out of Erin’s development proposal- effluent flows instream chloride concentrations will exceed aquatic guidelines for chronic exposure.
  • The Town of Caledon and Region of Peel need to be fully aware of the Town of Erin/Wellington waste water treatment plant as they may be responsible for downstream clean up.
  • Confirm all government agencies have fully evaluated effluent discharge into the West Credit River versus alternative treatment methods.
  • The impacts to West Credit River are cumulative – the waste water treatment plant, Erin pit expansion, and the proposed development all within 3 kilometers of Belfountain.


The purpose of this presentation is to inform you of Erin’s proposed Waste Water Treatment Plant on the West Credit River, accompanying urban growth and resulting impacts on the cold-water fishery and river health in Belfountain. This information has been compiled by Ann Seymour. This issue literally landed in her back yard; she lives in Belfountain on the West Credit River.

Erin Growth: Some Facts

  • Timeline: Four phases of growth, 20 years of construction, beginning within three years and will include a WWTP
  • Locations: Erin will have four housing developments and Hillsburgh has 800 acres also to be developed. Sewage from Hillsburgh will be piped to the Erin WWTP. The WWTP is designed to treat sewage from all of Erin and Hillsburgh’s current homes and planned growth. Erin will triple in size, in other words be 80% the size of Orangeville.
  • Effluent discharge sites are in priority ranking, WCR at Caledon-Wellington border (at Winston Churchill Blvd.), WCR on #10 or the Halton Crushed Stone Pit sites near Winston Churchill, a mere 3 km upstream of Belfountain.
  • MNRF have recently encouraged the Town of Erin to explore whether there are less aquatically sensitive locations in the subwatershed to the site of the proposed WWTP.
  • Driving this growth is Solmar Development and Mayor Als’ perception that Erin needs more tax dollars. Solmars real estate sales from 1240 houses, an industrial park, commercial and retail space, a school, etc. will be in over 1⁄2 a billion of dollars (1,240 x 450k = 563.5 million). This WWTP is all about more sprawl…urban development with developers lobbying the politicians.

The West Credit River

  • The WCR is habitat for one of the healthiest cold-water fisheries in Peel Region. It is considered pristine. Erin’s WWTP will release treated effluent into the river at 7400 cubic meters per day. The effluent will be disposed into the WCR directly at the Caledon – Wellington Border at Winston Churchill Blvd.
  • Brook Trout will not tolerate the increased temperature of the effluent discharged into the river.
  • Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) worked together to establish the baseline data for the Environmental Assessment (EA). The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the CVC are the commenting agencies on the EA. There appears to be little or no evidence that Region of Peel residents were consulted in the Environmental Assessment.
  • The MNRF wrote a report detailing their findings on the stress that the effluent will put on the West Credit River.
  • The MNRF expressed many concerns about the assumptions and methodology used in the assimilative capacity of the WCR and the concerns on impacts to native trout habitat.
  • The CVC flagged the impact of exceeding chronic chloride water quality guidelines at full build out flows.
  • Both the MECP and CVC did not further investigate Subsurface Disposal alternatives because sub surface systems take up more space, the local terrain is hilly, and they wanted to wrap-up the E.A. process because these studies would need more time.
  • The BCO and Ann Seymour sent separate Environmental Assessment Bump up Part 2 requests to the MECP in June 2018. The MECP decision is pending. The Town of Erin has said that even if further assessment is granted they will still continue to push for the WWTP.


  • There was no downstream public consultation for this WWTP with Belfountain from the Township of Erin. Belfountain residents were unaware of the proposed WWTP and that the effluent will be discharged directly at the Caledon-Wellington border. Erin pays no downstream environmental costs, as the first community Belfountain receives the potential damage and risk of failure.
  • Long-term the WWTP will not effectively remove salt loads/ammonia from water softeners tied to household sewage. Add winter road salt run off, more roads and the WCR cold-water fishery and health of our river will collapse.
  • Household Toxic Substance Disposal into Sewage System: Erin plans to “educate” their population about what not to dispose into the sewage system. An education program is not a substitution for removal of toxins. Education programs are a fig-leaf to avoid having to address a real problem, and not an adequate solution; there is never enough certainty and isn’t equivalent to removing toxins. Waters remain polluted with biotoxins, micro-plastics from laundry, etc., as people haphazardly and unknowingly pour into their drains substances that cannot be effectively treated by the WWTP. It is human nature to not strictly adhere to disposal guidelines, and as result remnants of these toxic materials will be released into the WCR.
  • The WCR cold-water fishery over the long-term will not tolerate endocrine disruptors, estrogen-based compounds, salt and medications from effluent as the WWTP cannot effectively remove them. The technology is not there.


  • It is understood that Erin would like to grow; however, with such ambitious development, when completed, the West Credit River will not tolerate Erin and Hillsburgh’s effluent.
  • This proposed WWTP will result in the eventual collapse of the native cold-water trout fishery and health of our river.
  • This is a “Places to Grow” site that cannot support intense development and growth. The WWTP allows for more units to be shoe-horned into the growth area by developers. Erin and Hillsburgh should continue to have private septic systems so as to not have negative impact on what we treasure.
  • Humans cannot continue to remove habitat from another species, we cannot continue to do business in this way; Nature Needs a Place to Grow! It is unethical to destroy one of the few remaining cold-water fisheries in southern Ontario.
  • There is a solution and a compromise for Erin and Belfountain. Erin can still grow by controlling sprawl smartly, putting households on individual septic sewage systems and cancel their WWTP. The proposed WWTP is in the wrong location; the West Credit River ecosystem cannot support it.
  • The MOE will ultimately either approve the report, or make recommendations to the Town of Erin to make adjustments or further research.
  • Erin expects a response by early summer.
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