Landfill and bylaw a hot topic at Mono Council’s session Tuesday

June 24, 2015   ·   0 Comments

Landfill was the hot topic at Tuesday morning’s Mono Council meeting, with more than 20 members of the community, particularly from the Mono Mulmur Citizens’ Coalition (MC2), attending to support a presentation by Carmela Marshall, Director with the Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force (OSRTF).

Fill, particularly within the Town of Mono’s fill bylaw, has been an ongoing issue, with both the threat of expanding sites, and more recently, a resident who has taken the Town to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board, claiming the current bylaw inhibits his ability to farm.

In a letter to the paper earlier this week, Don MacFarlane, President of MC2, wrote about one of the group’s roles in the community, which is working to prevent developments that residents feel are ‘a threat to our wonderful local environment’.

“We are now facing a new threat, the arrival of large amounts of landfill from sites in the Greater Toronto Metro Area,” wrote Mr. MacFarlane. “Our main concerns are that much of this fill arrives in our area without testing for contamination, and without in-depth analysis of the impact of this fill on local water sources.”

Ideally, he said, the Provincial government, particularly within the Ministry of the Environment, should be stepping in to not only control contamination but to take action against the increased amounts of contaminated fill being brought from the GTA into smaller communities such as Mono. But that’s only ideally. Critics, including Ms. Marshall, have been calling into question the MOE’s lack of involvement in protecting these communities, and their seemingly increased support for the transportation of the fill.

The OSRTF is a coalition of 20 citizen’s groups across Ontario, much like MC2, who are working to maintain sustainable soil across Canada. Ms. Marshall is also a Senior Researcher with Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water in Scugog.

“We’ve gathered a lot of research and information about the fill issues coming into the countryside, and it paints a pretty bleak picture of how it’s all been handled,” Ms. Marshall told Mono Council.

“There are many sites with contamination, including ones where people depend on ground water for a drinking source. We have many fill sites that are left to this day contaminated and unstable. There needs to be a more proactive approach.”

Ms. Marshall and the OSRTF have been attempting to work with the Province for five years to change the way fill is dealt with across Ontario, and she said the battle has been a difficult one.

“The Ministry of the Environment is involved in a review of the fill issue right not,” she said. “Unfortunately, that review will just determine whether Ontario needs a soil policy or not. We believe that we are beyond that; we need a policy that regulates the soil and sets out guidelines.”

She added that farms utilizing large-scale fills should not be seen as engaging in a ‘Normal Farm Practice’, which is where some have been able to get approval, despite bylaws preventing their actions.

“We have observed a growing trend of proponents declaring the need for significant quantities of fill ‘to improve their farmland’ or to ‘increase efficiencies of their farm’,” said Ms. Marshall. “We note a significant number of proponents trying to circumvent regulation by various approval authorities. Whether the operations be declared a normal farm practice or not, regulating authority should be valid and binding on anyone wishing to pursue large-scale filling endeavours in order to protect citizens and the environment.”

One of the biggest issues Ms. Marshall brought up regarding fill is that in many cases where an original test has claimed that fill is not contaminated, tests performed after the fill has been delivered show a completely different story, affecting drinking water and lands around it.

During her presentation to Mono Council, Ms. Marshall provided a draft model agreement for Mono to use as an approach to deal with fill applications, as well as a review of the Town’s current bylaw, and suggestions.

One suggestion included an explanation of contaminated soil, which would mean that rather than being something with specific elements, soil would be considered contaminated based on variances from the land’s original soil samples.

“Each site listed on an application for fill should have a pre-assessment that includes a test of the quality of the soil on site,” said Ms. Marshall. “If the soil is tested and nothing is found, that should be your standard for that application. Any change in the ambient condition of the original site soil is contamination.”

She continued adding that her suggestions included both the draft model agreement and bylaw, which would go hand in hand in assisting the Town in protecting their land from contaminated fill projects.

“We can no longer afford to wait for the Province on this issue,” said Ms. Marshall. “We have been begging the province to do something for five years now, since we recognized the gaps in this issue, and there has been no changes.”

Following her presentation, Mono Council decided to have Town staff review the draft agreement and bylaw for Council to consider the suggestions.

With the upcoming pre-hearing and hearing for the Town at the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board, the face of the fill bylaw could be a very different issue for Mono if the NFPPB rules in favour of the farmer.

During the first pre-hearing, held in April, Council, staff and residents in attendance were blindsided when the farmer and SoilCan, which is part of the resident’s defence, changed the purpose of their claims in order to call the entire fill bylaw into question.

When the case was first brought to   Mono’s attention by the resident, Douglas Cox, he went directly to the NFPPB instead of making an application, and Mono  was advised that the farmer’s issue was only with the fees required and the hours allowable under the bylaw. Despite the entire argument for Mr. Cox being different than what was presented, the hearing officer ruled that the case would put the entire bylaw under consideration, based on Mr. Cox’s claims that it prohibits him from being able to properly farm his land.

“A local farmer has challenged the Town of Mono bylaw that was established to regulate dumping of fill,” wrote MC2 in a recent letter. “His approach has been to appeal to the NFPPB to overturn the bylaw. This board was established to overturn local bylaws that restricted a farmer’s normal operation of [a] farm. The claim in this case is that the dumping of several thousand loads of fill is needed to improve the operation of the farmer’s sheep farm.”

Should Mr. Cox’s request be approved by the board, the effect on Mono, and surrounded communities, could be one that permanently changes the face and viability of bylaws.

“If large fill dumping projects are, as a result of this case, approved because the NFPPB feels this is a normal farm practice, we expect a deluge of dumping projects will arrive in our community,” said MC2. “We are very concerned about this possibility. The potential for the arrival of contaminated fill from dumping projects is significant, given the recent experiences of other communities. The impact on water resources, on haulage routes, and on property values could be devastating.”

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