Residents oppose sewage spreading field
By Chad Ingram
Published March 21, 2019
Residents filled Minden Hills council chambers for a public meeting on March 14, many expressing opposition to an official plan and zoning bylaw amendment application for the operation of a hauled sewage spreading site off of Bobcaygeon Road.
As a report from township planner Ian Clendening indicates, the subject property, a total of 117 acres, borders Bobcaygeon Road north of Scotch Line Road. Just over 18 acres of that property would be used for the ground spreading of hauled sewage. The application, from Carnarvon’s Francis Thomas Contracting, is to rezone the property from rural designation to a site-specific rural exception zone that would allow for the proposed use.
Last summer, after a 45-day public input period, Thomas Contracting received an environmental certificate approval from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks for the operation of the site. That ECA expires after two years. For a period last summer, haulage was spread at the site, until the company was informed by the township it was not a permitted use under the property’s zoning.
As planner Doug Carroll, representing Thomas Contracting, told council and members of the public at last week’s meeting, the company began looking for a suitable site for sewage spreading as far back as 2003, but that Haliburton County’s topography, with plentiful bedrock and water bodies, makes finding a suitable site difficult.
“As a result, most of the candidate sites did not meet the criteria of the MOE,” Carroll said. He explained that after various environmental constraints laid out by the province had been mapped and tested on the property, it left the 18-acre section as suitable for the purpose of spreading under MOE guidelines.
Those constraints include requirements such as a minimum depth of permeable soil, setbacks from water bodies and so forth. Carroll also explained the grade of the spreading area had to be graded to three per cent or less, soil berms had to be created in required areas around the outer limit of a wetland on the property, and that a vegetative buffer has been planted to act as further mitigation of surface water runoff if runoff was to go off the surface of the spread field.
Under the conditions of the ECA, the spread field can be operational between May 1 and Nov. 30.
During that period, Carroll explained, the groundwater must be sampled three times, the results of that testing filed with the ministry.
“They shut them down if they don’t comply,” he said.
Residents voiced long lists of concerns from noise and increased traffic in the area, to, especially, odour and potential contamination of area water bodies in a public meeting that lasted an hour and a half.
On the property are the headwaters of “Beaver Creek, or it might be more helpful if we refer to it as the elephant in the room,” longtime Mountain Lake resident Don Benson told council. The creek eventually flows into the Gull River.
“At present, the Minden Hills zoning bylaw does not permit a septage disposal and treatment use on this proposed site, for a reason,” Benson said.
Howard Clarke, president of the Mountain Lake Property Owners’ Association also spoke.
“I’m here to express our concerns and opposition to the proposed disposal and treatment site,” Clarke said, adding the association saw the proposed use as a danger to the community.
“Apparently, there are over 37 occupied properties that are less than 600 metres from the area,” he said. “Also, the distance from the centre of the field to the Minden [Hills] Cultural Centre is measured at 3.3 kilometres. So remember, if you will on this winter day, those hot, steamy days of summer, temperatures in the 30-Celsius range, with high humidity, and wind patterns changing by the hour. You can imagine the awful smell of human excrement wafting through the noses of those 37 property owners, In addition, winds out of the southwest will blow this horrible smell towards Mountain Lake and its surrounding area. Winds out of the north will turn the town of Minden into a stinkpot as the fetid air will be trapped in place by the surrounding Minden Hills. Is this what we want as a community, in our efforts to promote year-round tourism and future business enterprises for the county?”
A number of residents said they didn’t think the monitoring requirements laid out by the MOE were sufficient, and did not adequately monitor surface water. Residents of the area of Scotch Line Road, where Minden Hills’ main landfill is located, said that between the landfill and sewage spreading field, they feared for the value of the properties.
“Who do I call when I get an odour problem?” asked Clayton Cameron. “Do I call you, Mr. Mayor? Do I call the ministry?”
There were also several references to the Walkerton tainted water disaster throughout the meeting.
Councillor Jean Neville said that she’s lost faith in the MOE, which has in the past ignored recommendations from the township’s planning department.
Councillor Pam Sayne said council needed to think about the implications of climate change and its effect on the area’s water levels.
“Climate change moves fast . . . and governments move slow,” Sayne said. “And that’s a real tragedy in the waiting.”
A further report from Clendening incorporating public feedback and with additional information will come back to council.