Spreading field approved in 4-3 vote
By Chad Ingram
During an April 25 meeting, Minden Hills councillors approved zoning and official plan amendments to allow for the operation of a sewage spreading field off of Bobcaygeon Road in a vote that was as close they come.
The approval means Carnarvon’s Francis Thomas Contracting will proceed with sewage spreading on 18 acres of a 117-acre property four kilometres north of Minden.
Last summer, after a 45-day public input period, Thomas Contracting received an environmental compliance 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, septage was spread at the site, until the company was informed by the township it was not a permitted use under the property’s zoning. It then applied for the required zoning and official plan amendments. The ECA expires in the summer of 2020.
During a March public meeting, a number of residents expressed concern to council about the proposal, including the potential for odour and contamination of area groundwater. Some residences are less than 300 metres away from the subject property.
Township planner Ian Clendening has given detailed explanations about why he believes the proposal represents good planning, and not only meets but exceeds many of the environmental protection criteria laid out by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.
“This is a larger issue for the county,” said Councillor Pam Sayne, as she reiterated her concerns that the ministry’s process does not take into account municipal zoning bylaws, or the effects that climate change is having on water levels. Going forward, Sayne said she’d like to have a discussion around improved planning for these situations.
The ministry is supposed to be working on new regulations.
“I would like to know where the Ministry of Health is within this process,” said Councillor Jean Neville, whose career was as a lab tech, and who noted the stringent requirements in place when dealing with human excrement in laboratory settings. The same substances one deals with in a lab – feces, urine, blood – are just being spread on the ground, she said. “I am not feeling good about this situation.”
Neville has also noted that human feces often contains high concentrations of pharmaceuticals.
“It’s not just a smell issue,” she said.
“I am also conflicted on this,” said Councillor Bob Carter, who noted that the applicant had done everything they could to follow the rules, but admitted he had concerns around the thoroughness of the ministry approval process.
“They’re certainly not testing for pharmaceuticals and other things that are flushed down the toilet,” he said.
Mayor Brent Devolin said he believed council had done its due diligence, and that he’d seen septage facilities that were far inferior to the operation being proposed by Thomas.
“I think the bar is very high,” Devolin said.
Both Devolin and Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell noted that were council to vote against the amendments, given that the company already had an ECA from the province, it was very likely the decision would be appealed, and that the township would lose that appeal.
When it came time to vote, Carter requested and was granted a 10-minute break first.
In a recorded vote, Sayne, Neville and Councillor Jennifer Hughey voted against the amendments, Carter, Schell and Councillor Ron Nesbitt voted in favour, and Devolin cast the deciding vote of approval.