Monday, 28 November 2016

Toomas Karmo: DDO&P Sewage-Works Stormwater Facility: Queries for Province and Town, and Suggestions for Residents

One of my four Debian GNU/Linux desktops. Anticlockwise from top right: systems clocks, disciplined under Network Time Protocol (with, as usual, my local time - in the dark months, EST - in green, and UTC in red); a failed new earthen dam at Hadlock Point, Fort Ann, in  New York State (from; Town of Fort Ann found liable in Appellate Division of state Supreme Court); earthworks failure documented by North Carolina engineering consultancy Foster Lake, from; earthworks failure in Tasmania, from; a Debian GNU/Linux xterm ("glass teletype), showing some environmentalism-pertinent reading suggestions on which I have not yet acted. Barely visible as background wallpaper is part of a fine object for small telescopes in Ontario's autumn sky, the M57 planetary nebula.

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: Kmo had time to do a reasonably complete and (within the framework of the version 1.0.1, 1.0.2, .. process) reasonably polished job.

Revision history:
  • 20161129T0450Z/version 2.2.0: Kmo changed "one-metre bore" to "twenty-centimetre bore" (actually doing this ineptly, replacing "one-metre bore" with the incoherent phrase "twenty-centimetre metre bore", and in turn replacing this incoherent phrase with the required, coherent, "twenty-centimetre bore" around UTC=20161129T1712Z. - Kmo reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3, ... . 
  • 20161129T0429Z/version 2.1.0: Kmo added an appropriately themed graphic at the top of the blog posting. Kmo reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.1.1, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, ... . 
  • 20161129T0305Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo finished converting the point-form outline into coherent prose. He reserved the right to make minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... . 
  • 20161129T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time only to upload a point-form outline. He hoped to convert this outline to coherent prose in multiple successive uploads, finishing this process at some point in the coming four hours. 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

0. Preliminary Remarks

Helpful 2016-11-16 journalism by local reporter Kim Zarzour, uploaded to under the headline "Richmond Hill neighbours furious with David Dunlap land developer's 'mountain'", reminds us all how important hydrogeology continues to be in what has from 2007 emerged as Canada's weightiest heritage-conservation case - the David Dunlap Observatory and Park (DDO&P).

Hydrogeology figured prominently in the brave, and yet fruitless, 2012 and 2014 Ontario Municipal Board efforts of the Richmond Hill Naturalists ( to block at least some of the envisaged lane-and-14-streets "Observatory Hill" subdivision, with its projected offensive 520-plus homes. The Naturalists' expert witness Gary Hunter ( testified to the danger of breaching the Oak Ridges Moraine Aquifer cap under the eastern half of DDO&P.

As one source of danger, Mr Hunter identified the developer's possibly digging too deep in building a development-required stormwater management sump.

In the commonly accepted development-industry euphemism, such a sump is a "stormwater management pond". But I favour the term "sump" for its clarity. Here will collect, after all, no pondwater in the conventional sense, but instead a silty chemical brew. The misleading character of the euphemism emerges as soon as we note that under the Ontario Water Resources Act, a "stormwater management pond" is formally one kind of "sewage works". (I have barely glanced at the Act, with its many dozens of references to sewage. But I do note the use of this "sewage works" terminology, in an Ontario Water Resources Act context, in a 2016 Toronto and Region Conservation Authority book-length document, "Stormwater Management Ponds and Constructed Wetlands"  - retrievable through a Google search on the string Stormwater Management Ponds and Constructed Wetlands pdf


Kim Zarzour's just-cited 2016-11-16 journalism shows in what problematic, and to some minds frightening, way the would-be developer is now trying to address the persistent probem of the aquifer cap:

What used to be a heavily treed portion of the David Dunlap land fronting on Bayview is now a mountain of earth /.../

Residents in the community located at the southeast corner of the DDO lands say they were shocked last August to see the large berm appear where trees once stood.

What they thought would be a buffer of trees between them and the new DDO development is an elevated storm water pond, and they are not happy.


The Town of Richmond Hill has assured them the developer will landscape the berm, but residents say it's [a] bandaid fix.

Dan Terzievski, director of development engineering and transportation, said the town went through the planning process and public consultation along with a Master Environmental Servicing Plan with the developer DG Group.

The land nearest Bayview and Fern was determined the best site for the storm pond, he said.

"We were driven by a number of constraints. There is a shallow ground water table and potential Oak Ridges moraine aquifer issues."

The pond had to be relatively shallow to protect the integrity of adjacent wetland, he said.

The developer has agreed to put in "significant enhanced landscaping" and will certify the soil so the plants grow quickly, he said.

Terzievski said residents should not be at risk for flooding.

"It's designed by professional engineers and will be fully inspected and certified."

Water will be discharged into the storm system and in catastrophic storms, overflow channels will direct water toward Bayview Avenue.

"We've done the best we can in this particular case and at the end of the day, we hope to make everyone happy."

There are three broad possibilities here - in other words, three basic, a priori conceivable, scenarios.

First: it could, for all I know, be the case that Canada will in perpetuity avoid economic depression or other social disaster, and that the Town of Richmond Hill and any relevant commercial parties will therefore in perpetuity stay solvent. Under this optimistic scenario, the Town and any relevant commercial parties will in perpetuity have the money to pay for maintenance on the "sewage-works stormwater facility".

On my first scenario, those daunting retaining banks, with their aspect of a mountain when inspected from Fern Avenue, never do fail. So the ancient, putatively pre-European, wetland, perilously close to the sump, and just outside the developer's envisaged subdivision, and lying just north of Fern Avenue, never does get destroyed.

Second, we have the scenario of slow failure, in the remoter future, which I sketched in 2012, in that work-in-progress which is More specifically, I sketched my second scenario in an essay at (Since is mere work-in-progress, I have put it under password protection at the Web server. But readers of this present blog should feel free to visit, using as login name jessie and as password accuracy.)

I started my 2012 essay by sketching the immediate future, say over the coming couple of decades - "the end of the Twenties and start of the Thirties",  I wrote there. Now, in 2016, that part of my sketch reads like a prediction coming true.

However, I continued my 2012 essay by taking a longer view, "toward the Nineties and the year 2100, or even a little beyond":

Later, as times get worse, the social development evident by 2000 or 2010 in Brazil reaches Canada. The wealthy live in gated communities, for the most part close to Toronto's business core, in such places as Soho and Cabbagetown, their electricity on for twenty-four hours a day, their homes artificially cooled in the increasingly brutal summers and artificially warmed in what used to be considered winter. The more outlying parts of Metro Toronto, such Davisville, Eglinton, Agincourt are less happy, though here, too, selected municipal services remain.

The real Brazilian favelas are in the outer suburbs, notably in Richmond Hill.

The DDO&P favela is better than some. Here, at least, two thousand people have the rump of an erstwhile park to their immediate west, and so they have enough room to dump what bedsprings may have to be dumped, to discard whatever improvised biochar-burning cookstove may have disappointed them by rusting through. They have even enough erstwhile lawn, in an epoch of climate change, to occasionally repay foraging for February dandelion greens.

The "stormwater management pond" is of course going or gone, its maintenance long abandoned, its leakage now accelerating, its leakage and overflow now cutting the first little gullies through what used to be a post-glacial wetland. In another fifty years, the gullies will be bigger.

And thirdly, we have the really grim stuff in the thinking of a local resident, reported by Kim Zarzour in her above-mentioned 2016-11-16 article: "John Chow said he worries about the dam breaking and flooding nearby homes."

Is Mr Chow extreme? Is he an alarmist? 

I have to be careful in what I write here, since if I am not careful I run the risk of legal action from the developer. Being now impoverished, through my DDO&P 2007-through-2015 casework outlays of 500,000 CAD or 550,000 CAD, I can no longer justify spending money on a lawyer, as distinct from basic groceries. If I were to be sued, I would have to self-represent. I could no longer contemplate retaining some distinguished Bay Street freedom-of-expression specialist, such as the Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP I retained for the 2014 DDO&P free-speech defence chronicled at and In fact I have to be all the more careful because I know, both through informal conversations and through what I heard in a DDO&P session at the 2012 Ontario Municipal Board, that the developer did at some point in the period 2008-2012 warn of contemplated legal action against some homeowner or homeowners on or near Fern Avenue. (Subject to correction by the developer, I put on record here my belief that the case(s) never came to trial, but instead got - like my own 2014 casework at the hands of pro-subdivision politician Karen Cilevitz rather than at the hands of the developer - settled out of court.) So I neither endorse nor repudiate Mr Chow's quoted words from the community newspaper.

And for good measure I add that in writing what I am writing today, I have not yet started my inevitable, upcoming, round of discussions with residents, Mr Chow I presume among them, in the wake of Ms Zarzour's helpful 2016-11-16 community-newspaper reporting. I guess the first chats between residents and me - I live about two kilometres to their north - are liable to occur  at some later point this week, as my workflow may permit. 

All I can safely remark here is that Mr Chow's quoted words embody a third, conceivable, scenario. On his scenario, we have not perpetual successful maintenance (as in my first conceivable scenario), and not gradual berm failure decades from now (as in my second conceivable scenario). Rather, we have a sudden, catastrophic, berm rupture. This is the possibility I have tried to suggest at the top of my present blog page, by loading  onto my computer, and then incorporating within a full-desktop screenshot, photo material from a couple of jurisdictions far outside Richmond Hill. In local terms, we are to picture the hypothetical rupture releasing a great bore of water (I imagine it as a twenty-centimetre bore, like the tidal bores I have seen in Nova Scotia's Cobequid Bay), sweeping across the residential lots in and near Fern Avenue. We are on this third scenario to imagine the bore inflicting immense damage to a swathe of homes, and moreover at the onset of its quarter-hour of chaos also destroying the nearby ancient, putatively pre-European, wetland - permanently diminishing our municipal natural heritage. 

1. My Request to Ontario's Minister of Environment and Climate Change

We as taxpayers must study the risks.

Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs, the Honourable Bill Mauro, has already kindly relayed my past concerns about the aquifer cap (covered in this blog in my "Theology-of-Civics and DDO" posting from 2016-11-07 or 2016-11-08) to Ontario's Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Glen Murray. I today, at this early stage in what in the light of Ms Zarzour's 2016-11-16 reporting bids fair to become an eventual new Battle Royal, have a small set of preliminary questions for Mr Mauro's team. I communicate my questions to that team not only through this present blog, but also through e-mail and papermail:

  • How common in Ontario is this DDO&P sewage-works stormwater-facility design, in which a strikingly shallow dirty-water excavation gets surrounding by strikingly high banks? (Could Mr Murray's team supply me with some examples from outside DDO&P - perhaps from two or three or four Ontario jurisdictions outside the Town of Richmond Hill?) 
  • Has the developer ("Corsica", a subsidiary of DeGasperis family flagship DG Group (; "Bringing Life to Land", says the DG Group Web site)) fully discharged its legal duties in relation to the provincially required Sewage Works Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA)? (I might add here, for clarity, that the developer is "Corsica", a subsidiary of the DeGasperis family flagship DG Group. DG Group can be studied at (This is the Web site with greenspace photorgraphy, bearing the slogan "Bringing Life to Land."  Corsica's Web outreach appears to comprise only - a site which does not mention Corsica by name, but does show the corporate logos of four Corsica-connected homebuilders, and offers its visitors the possibility of subscribing to a newsletter.) 
  • How may the public inspect Corsica's Sewage Works ECA paperwork process, both as regards documentation filed by Corsica and as regards documentation generated in response to Corsica filings by one or another level of government? (For which parts, if any,  must we, the public, file Freedom of Information (FOI) requests? For which parts, if any, is access granted to us immediately, without recourse to FOI?)
Further, I have today, in this early stage of the possibly looming new Battle Royal, preliminary questions for the Town of Richmond Hill. As with the Province of Ontario, so too in the case of the Town I communicate my questions not only through this present blog but also through both e-mail and papermail (in the case of the Town using the Town Clerks' office(s) as my initial e-mail and papermail recipient). 

I begin by respectfully asking the Town two preliminary questions of a legal or administrative character: 

  • Does title in the sewage-works stormwater facility stay in perpetuity in the private sector, or does it at any future stage pass to any level of government?
  • Which party (developer, Town, or other) is going to be keeping the sewage-works stormwater facility maintenance records, and in what form is that party proposing to be keeping them (will they be kept under generic office software, or under SWMSoft(TM), or under some sewage-works software application other than SWMSoft(TM)?), and with what level of public access is it being proposed to keep the records (archived subject to immediate public inspection, or archived with public access granted only subject to a successful FOI application)? 
I continue by asking the Town some preliminary questions about the construction in its geoemetrical - i.e., in its purely spatial - aspect: 

  • What is the volume of the facility, in cubic metres, as the maximum volume available for water storage before any emergency spillway is activated? 
  • What is the vertical height of the retaining berm, from the berm-adjoining dryland level grade up to the top of the berm, and what is its dry-side lateral, or "slant", height, and its wet-side lateral, or "slant", height? (For clarity: The slant height cannot be less than the vertical height, but may be significantly greater. If a minimal-area vertical cross-section through the berm, linking wet side and dry side along the shortest path, is everywhere  a right triangle with hypotenuse 5 units long, and with horizontal leg 3 units long, and with vertical leg 4 units long, with the wet side of the berm vertical and the dry side sloped, then the vertical height is 4 units, and yet  the dry-side slant height is 5 units.) 
  • Is it the case that (a) the facility floor is essentially level, or instead the case that (b) the facility floor incorporates a local micro pool, such as is used near an outlet pipe in some sewage-works stormwater facilities of some municipalities? In case (a), what is the vertical height from the facility floor to the adjoining dryland level grade, and what is the typical lateral, or "slant", height? In case (b), what are (b.a) the typical vertical and lateral height from the facility floor outside the micro pool to the adjoining dryland level grade, and (b.b) what is the vertical height from the lowest point of the micro pool to the adjoining dryland level grade? 
  • Is the thickness of the berm, at the point at which it meets the adjoining level grade, constant or varying, as a shortest-path distance linking dry side of berm to wet side of berm? If constant, what is this constant thickness? (In terms of my hypothetical constant-right-triangle example, this quantity is everywhere 3 units.) If varying, what is the minimum and what is the maximum thickness, as one proceeds around that closed curve which is the bottom-of-berm outer footprint at facility-adjoining dryland grade level, taking successive minimal-area vertical cross-sections through the berm from its dry (outer) side to its wet (inner) side? 
Next, I have preliminary questions for the Town regarding the construction in its material aspect: 

  • Is there a liner, and if so, of what material? (Clay is sometimes used, in some municipalities, in sewage works of this type.) 
  • Is there an anti-seepage collar, to prevent seepage through the berm, such as is sometimes used in sewage works of this type in some municipalities? If so, then of what material(s) is the collar? 
  • What material(s) are present in a typical minimum-area vertical cross-section of the berm? (Tamped ordinary soil? Tamped special soil, such as a clay? Aggregate? Factory pre-cast concrete, with or without rebar? Poured-in-place concrete, with or without rebar? Other material?) 
I have the following preliminary questions for the Town regarding sediment removal:

  • How many tonnes of sediment does the Town, drawing on its experience with Rumble Pond, Pioneer Park, or other such Richmond Hill sewage-works stormwater facilities, expect to remove over a 50-year period, and with how many separate operations over this period? (I give an example for clarity: if it is expected that at most 10 years can safely elapse between removal operations, then it will be expected that in the first 50 years of its life, the facility will be cleaned out 5 times - at the conclusions of, namely, Years 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50.) 
  • Is sediment to be removed be dewatering the facility and then moving onto its floor with appropriate equipment (such as, perhaps, backhoe, or clamshell digger); or on the contrary through some process, circumventing the necessity of dewatering,  either of mechanical dredging (as by long-reach backhoe, or by dragline) or of hydraulic dredging? If through dewatering, then is the dewatering to be carried out chiefly by pumping or chiefly through a drawdown pipe? 
Finally, I have the most important of my preliminary questions. In directing them to the Town, I address the safety concerns of above-quoted resident Mr John Chow: 
  • What are the dimensions and orientation of the emergency spillway(s)? 
  • Are there any devices (e.g., transducers with piezoelectric crystals, or wire-resistor transducers) monitoring (a) pressure on the inside surface of the berm (i.e., stress imposed on the berm), and (b) deformation of the berm (i.e., strain response to the imposed stress)? If so, how many such devices are there, and of what type; and what access do taxpayers have to the data streams which these devices produce? 

2. My Suggestion to Fern Avenue Residents

I will try to disseminate this viewpoint to the general public, including the Fern Avenue residents, not only via my present blog but also via a short comment at, and through some kind of podium speech at "Public Forum" or "Delegation" time in some Town Council or Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, and through visits with hardcopy printout to the individual Fern Avenue (or vicinity) homes. 

I would ask any interested residents, but most especially those on Fern Avenue, to indicate to me by noon EST on 2016-12-07 (WED), in individual e-mails to or individual phone calls to 647-267-9566, what steps they now feel we, as taxpayers, should be taking. Should we, for instance, next convene a public discussion meeting among ourselves in one of the Hillsview Drive churches, inviting also the politicians, Town staff, and the developer? At such a meeting, I could try to answer questions regarding the ongoing DDO&P casework, in my modest capacity as a 2006-through-2008 Observatory staffer, and the Town and Corsica could also take questions from us. 

3. Concluding Remarks: Corsica Would Do Best to Abandon the Subdivision

I have said it on this blog quite a few times before, but it is worth saying yet again: Corsica's malign subdivision project is best set aside, with those unhappy 520-plus homes left unbuilt. It is best for the bulldozed 32-odd hectares to be now turned to some appropriate conservation-compatible government purpose, as a worthy adjunct to the adjoining projected 45-hectare municipal greenspace. I made a suggestion along these lines for Ottawa, as distinct from the Town of Richmond Hill, in my blog posting of 2016-08-29 or 2016-08-30, under the heading "Open Letter re DDO&P DND (Department of National Defence) Implications". And others, perhaps from within government, may have worthy suggestions of their own.

Let us leave the mountains of the envisaged sewage-works facility dry, if necessary cutting rainwater egress channels, and if necessary even making such channels snake through planted reedbed well outside the worrisome berm. We thereby on the one hand leave the nearby ancient, putatively pre-European, wetland safe, and on the other hand allay the legitimate safety concerns of Fern Avenue residents.

And let us put forest back onto all possible parts of Corsica's 32-hectare moonscape. We may hope to achieve our reforestation less through government largesse than through a local citizen initiative - drawing therewith on some local pledges of volunteer tree-planting labour made back in 2012, and still archived.

[End of this blog posting.] 

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