Millbrook water fight runs deeper

Peterborough Examiner

February 5th, 2010

By Josh Garfinkel and Josh Kohler

Residents in and around Millbrook have expressed substantial opposition to a proposed development of massive proportions in nearby Fraserville. Cavan Monaghan Township has planned an expansion to the Kawartha Downs casino, as well as nearly 700 homes, a golf course, big box stores, an entertainment complex, and so on. The crux of the issue is water; due to contamination of groundwater in Fraserville the township wants to pipe water from Millbrook's wells, 12 kilometres away.

One essential element missing from recent news reports is that two of Millbrook's three wells are within the protected area of the Oak Ridges Moraine. The moraine is a source of drinking water for more than a quarter million people. It acts as a giant filter for Southern Ontario, purifying water and then dispersing it into 65 rivers and streams that replenish the Southern Ontario lakes that millions more Ontarians draw their water from.


Earthroots actively pushed for protection for the Oak Ridges Moraine, which passed in 2001, and we are extremely concerned with this development. Under the Oak Ridges Moraine protection, Peterborough County is obligated to produce progressive water plans to safeguard and sustainably allocate moraine water resources, a requirement that has yet to be fulfilled. This fact forbids the county from allowing major developments like Fraserville. However, as the Fraserville development is not on the moraine it can legally draw its water from the moraine, exposing a giant loophole in the legislation.

People in Millbrook and surrounding area are literally losing sleep over concerns for their water. If the water table is lowered it could severely impact wells for miles around.

Township Reeve Neil Cathcart is on record as stating: "The whole thing of it is if you go back to its infancy, it was about bringing water to Fraserville for Kawartha Downs. That's still the goal of the township." This makes sense, as Kawartha Downs is a massive revenue generator for the township and likely does not want to pay for an expensive water treatment system. The township's justification for spending $30 million of public money to pipe water from the protected Oak Ridges Moraine to Fraserville and the casino is seemingly to construct a brand new city on what is now fields and forest.

But wait a minute! Shouldn't the province's award-winning Places to Grow plan preclude a new city in a rural area, without usable water? When Millbrook citizens contacted the Growth Secretariat they learned that applications for Fraserville were submitted months prior to the growth plan's enactment, giving it a pass on this integral legislation as well.

We are witnessing a complete breakdown in provincial policies aimed at stopping exactly this sort of unsustainable development. If Fraserville establishes the practice of allowing development outside of the moraine to be serviced with moraine water, many lands surrounding the greenbelt with insufficient water for development will quickly become alluring opportunities for developers. As lands closer to Toronto continue to fall victim to more sprawl, tapping into the moraine for off-site development would not only have untold impacts on its water systems, it would also further diminish the greenbelt's ability to limit sprawl and keep development within urban areas already serviced by infrastructure.

Josh Kohler and Josh Garfinkel work for Earthroots, a Toronto-based environmental organization.