May 29, 2013

Town holds back payment as SSMP draft questioned

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin Town Council has voted to hold back payment of the most recent invoice from consultant BM Ross, after questions were raised about possible deficiencies in their Draft Final Report on the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP).

"Although 'holdbacks' are not a common practice with respect to consulting fees, I suggest that Council may want to be satisfied that 95% of the SSMP Report has been completed before releasing payment up to 95% of the contract," said Finance Director Sharon Marshall.

"I recommend that Council review the Terms of Reference with BM Ross representatives before any further payments are released."

Marshall has reviewed the Terms with Water Superintendent Frank Smedley, who commented on the situation at the May 15 SSMP Liaison Committee Meeting.

"There are more things that need to be done to get to the point where there's enough information to give council options, with financial numbers to back them up, where we can truthfully say yes, we feel this is definitely the best way to go for the Town of Erin," he said.

"There's a lot of work still to be done – to get to the end of Phase 2. That's the point where you can make some decisions; you either continue the process or you don't."

Council agreed to defer payment of the $30,923 (plus tax) bill for meetings with staff, council and the public, preparation of the final report and ongoing public consultation. The 2008 BM Ross contract was for $350,000 plus tax, and the Town has already paid their previous invoices totaling $303,094.

The total cost to the Town of the SSMP since 2006 has been $419,067, including payments to other engineering and hydrogeological consultants, including Triton Engineering. In addition, Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) has spent about $380,000, bringing the overall total to $799,000.

In a letter to the town, published in the May 21 council agenda, Project Manager Dale Murray of Triton Engineering Services says the BM Ross study results are "more planning oriented, and lacking technical support."

Murray has been a long-time advisor to the Town, and previously to Erin village when it studied a sewage plan in 1995. He is a member of the current Core Management Team (CMT), which he says "should have been more involved in such things as development of evaluation criteria on environmental impacts."

He recommends that after the CMT reviews all agency comments, BM Ross should do a second draft of the final report for council and public review.

He noted that the report may need to be changed to reflect comments that are still to come, from approval agencies such as the Ministry of the Environment. CVC has already demanded extra river monitoring work for the Assimilative Capacity Study within the SSMP, which will take at least until October.

"We feel that the Report needs to be more specific about what the Preferred Solutions include, as well as their impacts on the economic, social and natural environments," said Murray.

"The Terms of Reference required that the consultant work closely with the Town's Hydrogeologist (Blackport) and Watson Associates on matters related to ground/surface water impacts and development of financial plans for recommended solutions. There is no indication that that happened. These two firms have a wealth of knowledge specific to Erin and should, in our opinion, play a lead role in the Study.

"The Draft focuses on Erin [village] and Hillsburgh and is not specific about servicing of the Study area as a whole."

Matt Pearson, Project Manager for BM Ross, was given an opportunity to comment on the current developments, but he did not respond.

Sewage debate comes full circle after 18 years

As published in The Erin Advocate

At the recent public meeting on Erin's quest for a sewage system, while residents took turns denouncing the idea, Matt Pearson of BM Ross turned to me and said, "These meetings are all the same."

He meant no disrespect to the speakers – it's not an easy thing to stand up and address a large crowd. But as an infrastructure consultant, he has seen how communities respond when they fear a major upheaval.

I was looking back at The Advocate's coverage of a public meeting in September 1995, during Erin village's unsuccessful attempt to plan and get funding for a sewage plant. The similarities to today's SSMP process are striking. Here are excerpts from the 1995 story by reporter Robert Burr:

There was standing room only last week as Reeve Terry Mundell opened the meeting on the proposed $25 million sewage treatment plant for the village of Erin. The reeve began the meeting by assuring the fifty people present that council is still some way away from making a decision on whether or not the village will have a sewage treatment plant.

He pointed out that there are some severe cost implications associated with the plant, and assured the audience that no final site for the plant has yet been selected. "Council still has a lot of work to do on this project," he said.

A member of the audience expressed his concern that the community had not been well enough informed about the sewage treatment plant and a request was made that the project be put on hold until a consensus is arrived at. There was also a request that all engineering documents be made available for public review.

Reeve Mundell answered by stating that the documents were not ready for public view, as they are still waiting for input from various government agencies. Mundell pointed out that this was the third public meeting on sewage since 1994. The Reeve added that a consultant would help the village plan a financial strategy to deal with the cost of the project.

"We have to have some serious financial reviews to see what we look like over the next 20 years," Mundell said.

Dale Murray of Triton Engineering told the group that the long term impact of the existing system on the West Credit River and the village ground water had been studied. The village is taking drinking water from the same area we discharge our waste, Murray said. He pointed out that one of the village wells has already been shut down because of high nitrate levels.

"If things are allowed to continue in this way for the next twenty years, collectively, what is going to be the impact?" the engineer asked. He also stated that the repair of existing septic beds can be difficult and very expensive.

The whole project hinges on the amount of funding that will be available from the province. It is hoped that the province will pick up about 73 per cent of the cost, leaving the village with about $4 million to finance.

Several people brought up the problems of odours and noise, but Murray felt that these are not problems in modern state of the art facilities. As the meeting drew to a close, a number of the people present became increasingly concerned about the lack of public input. Reeve Mundell agreed that the council might set up a citizen's committee on the project.

At another public meeting three months later (with no citizen's committee organized), resident Ron Goddard questioned the whole process.

"The public has to have it proved that a sewage treatment plant is even needed," he said. "With better public information and facts at the first meeting, you might have found out that the public doesn't want it."

According to Goddard, many people feel that the whole process should be taken back to the beginning and begun again.

Reeve Mundell said that council has concluded there is contamination of ground water, but has not concluded that a sewage plant is the only option. He said council is looking for the most reasonable, affordable solution.

May 22, 2013

Baroque concert lights up historic Melville church

As published in The Erin Advocate

One of the oldest churches in the area was the setting for a concert of even older music recently, as fans of the Baroque era came to hear works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) and Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) performed on period instruments.

Located on Mississauga Road between Belfountain and Olde Baseline Road, Melville White Church is architecturally unique and one of the last remaining Ontario timber frame churches predating the Victorian era. It is named for Andrew Melville (1545-1622), an early leader of the Presbyterian Church during the Renaissance in Scotland.
The white painted church was built in 1837 by Erin founder Daniel McMillan and his brothers, who built the various mills that powered Erin's pioneer economy. Just two years earlier, McMillan had become the son-in-law of Daniel McLaughlin, who had donated the land for the Melville church.

It was a focal point for for Scottish immigrants who had come to the uneven land near Shaw's Creek Road and Olde Baseline, naming the settlement Rockside. The first minister was Rev. Duncan McMillan, who also served the early congregation of Burns Presbyterian Church in Erin, preaching in both Gaelic and English.

In 1902 a rubble stone wall with iron gates was erected across the front of the church and cemetery property. The Melville worshippers decided to join the United Church in 1925, but declining membership led to its closure in 1964. The building became the property of Credit Valley Conservation, and while there were occasional services, it fell into disrepair.

In 1997 the Town of Caledon acquired the site from CVC. In 1998, the Town signed an agreement with the Belfountain Heritage Society (BHS) to raise funds for its restoration. With the help of various donations and grants, about $300,000 has gone into the project, preserving a very attractive monument to the Rockside pioneers.

BHS rents it out for weddings, recitals, heritage displays, readings, art exhibits and other community functions to keep it self-sustaining. Go to for more information.

The ensemble concert was organized by Ron Greidanus, director of the Georgetown Bach Chorale, which performs at churches in Halton Hills and Brampton. Having a small group in an intimate space allows the subtleties of the fine instruments to be well heard.

Greidanus provided delightful harpsichord for a series of works from the Baroque period, known for distinct lines of counterpoint and elaborate ornamentation. Each instrument maintains a clear voice, ready to switch between gentle accompaniment and complex melodic lead, which was especially dramatic in an excerpt from Bach's Mass in B Minor.

The mezzo soprano voice of Pamela Gibson flowed strongly and confidently, delivering good emotional intensity, while soprano Jane Potovszky brought a playful, joyful air to her performances.

Justin Haynes played an ornate instrument he built himself, a viola da gamba, which is about the size of a cello. It is played with a bow, but unlike most orchestral string instruments it has frets and is tuned more like a lute or guitar. Haynes added both rich harmony and subtle embellishment to the works.

Flautist Emma Elkinson, on tour from Holland, played two solo Fantasias by Telemann, with delicate phrasing and fine dynamic control. Particularly enchanting was the conversation of trills between her wooden flute, Haynes' viola da gamba and the baroque violin of Puslinch native Edwin Huizinga.

Telemann's Paris Quartet No. 6 in E Minor was the final gem of the evening, and while it allowed all the instrumentalists to shine, it was a special showcase for the virtuosity of Huizinga. With cascading flourishes, bold enrichments and sweet pure notes, he drove the work with both precision and passion.

To hear historic music in a historic building was indeed a pleasure, and perhaps an inducement to attend some concerts of the Georgetown Bach Chorale when they launch their 2013-2014 season in October.

Extra river monitoring delays SSMP process

As published in The Erin Advocate

Completion of Erin's Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) is being delayed until at least late this year, as Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) says it needs more data on the flow of the West Credit River near the Tenth Line during the dry summer months.

In a recent letter, CVC said it wants to install a new streamflow gauge, to gather data for a minimum of one year. But after a meeting of the SSMP Core Management Committee last week, it was announced that CVC has agreed that monitoring the gauge until October should be sufficient for it to complete its review of the Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS).

New housing developments cannot proceed until the SSMP is complete. Solmar Development Corp is running its application for a subdivision north of Dundas Street at the same time as the SSMP, in hopes of getting approval more quickly after it wraps up.

A final draft version of the SSMP report, recommending a full sewer system for Erin village and Hillsburgh, has been made public, but more changes are possible. The crucial ACS, which will form part of the SSMP report, is also not done yet. Consultants BM Ross did an initial version, but CVC is demanding changes and the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) has yet to provide feedback.

Based on the ACS, the MoE will set a legal limit for the urban population (Hillsburgh and Erin village combined), based on the West Credit River's ability to safely absorb treated sewage effluent. The population number could range from 6,500 to 13,500, but CVC has said it is likely to be in the lower part of that range.

"The Town/CVC will be installing an additional streamflow gauge this summer to gather data to enhance the robustness of the calculations," said SSMP Project Manager Matt Pearson of BM Ross. The SSMP process represents the first two phases of an Environmental Assessment (EA). It was supposed to identify data gaps, but this requirement was not expected.

"It's not costing the town anything to make sure we have the best data, other than a little time," said Pearson. CVC is expected to pick up the relatively low cost of the gauge.

"This data will form part of the final ACS. The SSMP will not be completed until we have completed the ACS. The third phase of the Class EA would not be started until Council has accepted the SSMP."

CVC wants direct data on low-flow river conditions at Tenth Line, instead of estimates based on gauges at other locations. Conditions can vary based not only on tributaries, but on the movement of water back and forth between the river and underground aquifers.

The ideal point for discharging the effluent from a sewage treatment plant has not been determined, but the CVC has indicated that it is likely to be towards Winston Churchill Boulevard, rather than at Tenth Line (where Solmar has tentatively bought land for a sewage plant). Sewage could be treated at one location, with the effluent piped to another location for river discharge.

CVC wants the ACS to account for the impact of climate change, since drier summers could mean lower river flow and less ability to absorb effluent. At the final meeting of the SSMP Liaison Committee last week, Pearson said that will require an arbitrary reduction of the population limit.

"There are no rules about that," said Pearson. "What they want to do is have a look at it to see "what if", and they want a scenario. Climate could do this and this – what if we knock back the normally calculated AC number by ten per cent?"

Pearson reminded Erin that provincial policy requires communities to ensure necessary infrastructure for projected needs. The province promotes growth and higher density housing, with municipal water and sanitary sewers as the preferred form of servicing.

"You're supposed to go that route," said Pearson. "To have no sewers, you'd push away everything you've worked on. The SSMP is a tool to get money from senior governments. This type of project always gets funding eventually, but you have to have a plan."

May 15, 2013

CVC questions river study, predicts lower population

As published in The Erin Advocate

Credit Valley Conservation has raised serious questions about Erin's SSMP study of the West Credit River and lowered expectations of how much the urban population may grow in the future, partly due to the impact of climate change.

The Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) will include an Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) that sets a limit for the number of urban residents, based on the West Credit River's ability to safely absorb treated sewage effluent. CVC has reviewed the draft ACS, and comments are expected from the Ministry of the Environment.

"CVC is of the opinion that the ACS has over estimated the ability of the watercourse to receive effluent," said CVC Water Resources Specialist Luke Reed, in an April 17 letter to Matt Pearson of BM Ross, which completed the ACS.

"As such the environmental impacts of the three population scenarios presented in the report have been understated. Using the information presented in the draft ACS for further design decisions may have unexpected negative impacts on the water quality and aquatic ecosystem."

Reed said the ACS and future Environmental Assessment studies also need to take into account the impact of extra stormwater that would drain from new developments, which would use up some of the river's assimilative capacity.

He also proposed different methods for assessing water quality, and installation of another stream flow gauge somewhere between Tenth Line and Winston Churchill to collect data over a one-year period. It is not known if this would delay completion of the SSMP.

"We believe that some of the assumptions that have gone into the draft Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) report need to be firmed up," said CVC Deputy CAO John Kinkead, speaking at last Monday's special council meeting on the SSMP.

"The available assimilative capacity of the West Credit River will never be any greater than it is today – it will probably decline as a result of climate change and other factors," said Kinkead, who also spoke as a delegation at last Tuesday's council meeting.

"There are analyses out now that say that we will see higher flows in the spring, because there is likely to be more rain and less snow. But on the other hand, the flow in July, August and September are likely to be lower in the future."

The ACS looks at maximum future population scenarios ranging from 6,500 to 13,500, for the combined urban centres of Hillsburgh and Erin village.

"We believe it's more in the lower half of that range that the West Credit can tolerate," said Kinkead.

The current combined population is estimated at 4,280. The Solmar development plan alone could boost that to more than 7,000 in over 20 years, the Tavares development in Hillsburgh could add over 2,000 people, and there are other small housing developments possible.

Kinkead said CVC is not opposed to a sewer system for Erin, or to the possibility of a partnership (or co-proponency) between the Town and developers to share the costs of further environmental studies.

"The province does not generally support partial servicing. [Town water with septic systems.] I don't think any of us went into the SSMP exercise not fully expecting that communal wastewater collection and treatment wouldn't somehow come out as a preferred recommendation," he said.

In an April 25 letter to former Erin CAO Frank Miele, Kinkead said he wanted to ensure that CVC's concerns "are addressed in the ACS prior to its finalization and further that those recommendations be carried forward in drafting the Terms of Reference (ToR) for subsequent phases of the wastewater servicing EA process.

"In light of these concerns, and in view of the fact that the MOE comments on the draft ACS are still outstanding, we recommend that the report to Council recommending moving forward on the EA be deferred until the ACS is finalized."

At last week's council meeting, Miele recommended for the second time that council authorize him to start discussions with developers about cost sharing and the terms of reference for the next phases of the EA, but council decided to defer any such discussions until the SSMP is complete.

CVC says 10th Line not ideal for sewage discharge

As published in The Erin Advocate

Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) is suggesting that an Erin sewage treatment plant should discharge into the river well downstream of Tenth Line.

Solmar Development Corp. has tentatively purchased land at Tenth Line and Wellington Road 52 (Bush Street) for possible construction of a sewage treatment plant, based on previous studies that showed it as a good location.

No decision has been made about a Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP), but residents in the area are very concerned about potential odours and devaluation of their properties.

The Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) suggests a location with maximum water flow between Tenth Line and Winston Churchill Boulevard. An Assimilative Capacity Study (ACS) is measuring the existing chemistry of the West Credit and its ability to accept sewage effluent without harming the environment.

The public does not have the ACS, which when finalized will form part of the SSMP, but the CVC comments on the draft ACS are public.

"CVC agrees with the recommendation presented in the ACS of locating the WWTP discharge point closer to Winston Churchill Boulevard as the Assimilative Capacity of the water course is higher here than further upstream by Tenth Line," said CVC Water Resources Specialist Luke Reed, in an April 17 letter to Matt Pearson of BM Ross. The full letter is available at as part of the May 7 agenda.

"Background water quality chemistry varies between Tenth Line and Winston Churchill Boulevard. These differences should be acknowledged as it will have implications when choosing an exact location for the WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plant) discharge point," said Reed.

"Water quality records indicate higher contaminant concentrations at Tenth Line compared to those found at Winston Churchill. Tenth Line water quality measures should be incorporated into the ACS if the WWTP discharge point is to be proposed further upstream, as effluent targets and environmental impacts may be affected."

CVC Deputy CAO John Kinkead confirmed this while speaking to council last week about the possible location.

"The further down the West Credit you go, the additional flows that you pick up, that allows you that much additional assimilative capacity. At the end of the day, we're saying, nowhere upstream of the Tenth Line, but the possibility of somewhere downstream of Tenth Line."

Town urged to reserve future sewage capacity

As published in The Erin Advocate

Concerns have been raised that if Erin decides not to build a sewage system for existing residents, developers could use up all of the sewage capacity, making it impossible to service existing homes in the future.

At last week's special council meeting on the SSMP, Mayor Lou Maieron outlined an approximate possible scenario in which the urban areas had 5,000 existing people, and the Town was told that the West Credit River could handle sewage from 10,000 people.

"Do you want to service the existing population, or does council say no, we're going to leave everybody in Erin and Hillsburgh currently on septics, on septics?" he said, meaning that the sewage capacity for those homes would be unused.

"The question could become, is the assimilative capacity of the river then 10,000 new people? The developers could say, we want to build a plan for 10,000 more people."

At the council meeting the next evening, Credit Valley Conservation Deputy CAO John Kinkead, said the Town of Erin should hold some capacity in reserve, in case it is needed in the future.

"In moving forward with a wastewater EA (Environmental Assessment) it's important, whether a decision is made today, 5 years from now, 10 years, 15 years from now, that there needs to be a set-aside in that available assimilative capacity in the West Credit for the possibility that the populations of Hillsburgh and Erin, or some portion of those populations, may need to be serviced by a communal system.

"I know there's a strong feeling within the existing community that current [i.e. septic] systems have served this community well for who knows how many years, and perhaps may for a similar number of years in the future. But there's no guarantee that that will be the case.

"I strongly urge council that if the decision is to move forward with completing the EA, that there be a thoughtful consideration for a reserve capacity, for the decision at some future time to incorporate some portion of the existing development to be part of a communal system."

May 09, 2013

Frank Miele no longer Erin CAO

After a closed session, it was announced that Chief Administrative Officer Frank Miele is no longer employed by the Town of Erin. There was no resolution passed, and no further information is expected to be released.

May 08, 2013

Transition Erin marks launch with lunch

As published in The Erin Advocate

Transition Erin had its unleashing on Saturday May 4, with a free lunch, a tree planting and a call for a new way of thinking that could help sustain our economy without destroying the environment.

"This is the opposite of sitting in our armchairs and complaining," said facilitator Andrew Welch. "We are actually very positive about the future. We're about meeting neighbours and doing fun things. Whatever change you want to see happen – get involved."

The group has been active for the past year, but is celebrating its recent recognition as an official Transition Town group, one of more than 1,000 in 43 countries. Its goal is to foster resilience, increase sustainability and enhance the quality of life for people in Erin.

The movement supports community-led responses to climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. In Erin that has included the Fast Forward film festival and has expanded to a series of working groups dealing with issues of sustainable development, wastewater solutions, local food and the revival of skills that can help people become more self-sufficient.

Mike Nickerson
Welch introduced speaker Mike Nickerson, the author of three books on economic sustainability, the most recent being Life, Money and Illusion; Living on Earth as if we want to stay.

"The human species has filled its habitat – we're stretching the limits of our planet," he said. "Is it proper, now that our biggest problems result from our size, to have growth as a goal?"

The world population has topped 7 billion, but Nickerson says it cannot continue to expand at the rates experienced in recent decades. He said the current system requires economic growth of about 3% per year, meaning a doubling of human activity within 24 years. He says a basic transformation is inevitable and that we need to plan for a steady state economy.

"Will it be a story of denial and disaster, or will it be a story of creativity and celebration? Do we want to grow until we drop? We're living on a finite planet.

"We're facing a very serious matrix of problems, and the single most potent thing you can do to help get us through this difficult time is to enjoy yourself. If you can get satisfaction from being, from relating with other people, from learning, from serving, from sport, music, dance, from appreciating the world – we can actually find satisfaction in life.

"The advertising industry world-wide spends about $450 billion every year trying to convince you that you need things, to be happy. And the reason it costs them so much, is that it's not true. We don't need things to be happy. We need each other and we need something to do.

"The solution is to live as lightly as possible on the planet, and get our pleasure from living. It's so serious, we're going to have to relax."

He says that ensure our long-term well-being, human activities should use materials in continuous cycles, with continuously reliable sources of energy. He spoke of the "voluntary simplicity" movement, in which people choose to work less and enjoy life more.

"Somebody who is caught up with a lot of debts and is working really hard to get enough money to stay above water may see somebody else who works three hours a day or three days a week, and is getting to do things that they enjoy with their life, and all they have to do is not want things," he said.

"Most of the money I've made, I've made by not wanting things, and there's so much out there to not want, I'm extremely wealthy."

More on Nickerson's ideas can be found at The Transition Erin website is and more can be learned at

Councillors Deb Callaghan and John Brennan help Joel Klassen
plant a cherry tree near the entrance to Erin District High
School, celebrating the official launch of Transition Erin.

Residents flush sewer plan and seek referendum

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Shamrock Room was packed Monday night as about 300 Erin residents blasted the Town for considering a plan to build a sewer system, which they fear would harm their quality of life and impose unjustified costs.

Matt Sammut of the Concerned Erin Citizens group presented a petition with 1,475 signatures, calling for moderate growth and protesting the possibility of a traditional sewer system that would tear up roads and require a central treatment plant, potentially near existing homes.

He called for a one year moratorium on any decision on sewers, and said the Town should have a program for inspection, maintenance and repair of existing septic systems.

"How can you consider going against the will of the people who elected you?" he said.

The Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) Environmental Assessment report is almost complete. The Town needs to decide whether to proceed with further environmental studies on sewer technology, and whether to partner with developers to share study costs.

"Before you spend another $250,000, why don't you put it to a vote and be bound by it?" said resident Rupika Lamprecht.

"I like the idea of a referendum – we can make it binding," said Mayor Lou Maeiron. A referendum could only be held at the next municipal election in the fall of 2014, said CAO Frank Miele.

Former Mayor Rod Finnie argued that a sewer system would be affordable if subsidies from governments and corporations are aggressively pursued, and that failing to grow would "sign the death certificate" for Erin.

Shelley Foord, of the Wastewater Solutions working group of Transition Erin, asked if there would be a conflict of interest in partnering with developers, but received no answer. She asked about the cost of a sewer system for 10,000 urban residents (the current figure is $65 million to serve 6,500 people), but no estimate was available.

"Shouldn't we really be figuring out what we can afford first?" she said.

Former school trustee Pierre Brianceau said council must decide whether to do what's right for developers or for the people of Erin.

"Let the residents take care of their current systems, and let new projects take care of the problems they are creating," he said.

More on Monday's meeting will be published in next week's Advocate. Information is available at:, and The draft SSMP report is in the April 16 council agenda, at

May 01, 2013

Needs of existing residents defended

As published in The Erin Advocate

If there is anyone out there who actually wants to see a traditional sewer system built in Erin village and Hillsburgh, now would be a good time to speak up, since the Town will soon decide whether to carry on down that road.

For four years, I have urged people to get involved, and written about the possibility of getting the advantages of a sewer system, while preserving Erin's charm. As far as I know, no one is yet convinced that this is possible with a traditional gravity-based system, or that the $65 million cost of such a system is justified.

Urban residents appear to be fall into three groups – those who adamantly oppose sewers, those who have given up caring (if they ever did) because they think sewers will never happen, and those who would reluctantly accept them if the cost and damage to the town could be reduced.

No one thinks Erin is perfect – far from it. People would like to see improvements. But from the start of the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), through all the public meetings and letters to the editor, there has been a clear, overwhelming message: the unique character of  Erin must be preserved.

What is the point of holding public consultations if you are going to ignore what the public says? To impose a system upon a community that is united against it would be foolhardy.

But opponents must also take up their responsibility for issues that Erin faces, from failing septic systems to pressure for new housing. To just say "No!" is easy. To seek a consensus on what should actually be done is more challenging.

Two community groups, Transition Erin and Concerned Erin Citizens (CEC), are trying to look for realistic alternatives. They have arrived a bit late in the process, but their role is still essential.

I recently interviewed Matt Sammut, who next Monday, May 6 at 7:30 pm, will speak for CEC at a special Town Council meeting and present a petition opposing construction of large-scale housing developments and a centralized sewage system. They will also be a delegation (if necessary) at the regular council the next evening, May 7.

"It seems wrong that the developer is controlling the process," said Sammut. Town Council is being urged by Chief Administrative Officer Frank Miele to form a partnership with various developers to share the cost of the next phase of the Environmental Assessment, when the SSMP is not yet complete.

After a review period and further public input, council will have to decide on its preliminary preferred strategy. Only then could further studies proceed.

The CEC's main point is that before considering the needs of future residents or how the town should change, the needs of existing residents must come first.

The potential site of a sewage treatment plant on Tenth Line at Wellington Road 52 lies within view of Sammut's home. But he says if the site was on the other side of town, he'd be fighting it just as hard. He said plants do not work perfectly and that odor problems are inevitable.

"There will be an impact on property values," he said, estimating that if there were a 10 per cent devaluation of 180 homes in the three nearby subdivisions, the loss of equity would total $10 million.

"Why should they pay the price? I wouldn't buy a house close to a plant. We're up here for the clean air. There will be an uprising."

He expects Town Council to stand up for residents, and to be prepared to defend itself at the Ontario Municipal Board if necessary.

Serviced industrial land is part of the Town's economic development strategy, which hopes to create jobs and build up commercial tax assessment, by retaining businesses and attracting new ones.

"They won't come unless we give them a tax break, which would defeat the purpose," he said, predicting a larger population of commuters. He also said homes would be generally devalued in the market if Erin can no longer provide what the majority of residents came here for – an escape from the traditional urban environment.

"We do need to have some growth, but it has to be manageable," he said. A provincially mandated inspection system to deal with failing septic systems would be acceptable to him, as would a decentralized communal sewage system that avoided the need for a large treatment plant.

He said if the provincial government wants to insist on a sewer system, they should be prepared to pay for it.

"Environmentally, do we really have to go for a full system?" he said. "We are not close enough to the GTA that we should be forced to build a full system."

Fitness Centre launches wheelchair bikes

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin PhysioFitness has launched a campaign to raise $7,500 to buy a wheelchair bike for the participants of ARC Industries East.

"We will be able to take them for rides on the rail trail – and let us know if you wish to become a volunteer bike rider," said Campaign Chair Ted Forrest. He also volunteers his time taking seniors from the Wellington Terrace home in Fergus out on the nearby Elora-Cataract Trail, using a similar bike.

ARC Industries, part of Community Living Guelph Wellington, provides work and support for adults with intellectual disabilities, and recently opened a new Erin facility close to the trail.

Donations can be made at the gym at 6 Thompson Cres. in Erin, or call Forrest for more information at 519-855-9788.  Cheques payable to ARC Industries East can also be sent to their location at 10 Thompson Cres., Erin N0B 1T0, or visit to donate online.

Ted Forrest takes a senior from Wellington Terrace out for a ride.

Volunteers essential in Canada's social fabric

As published in The Erin Advocate

Canada's 13.3 million volunteers make a huge contribution to the quality of life that we enjoy and provide a strong foundation for our economic prosperity.

Whether it is coaching minor sports, tending to a disabled relative or community member, helping a service club support local causes, participating in church events, performing amateur music or drama, joining the fire department, boosting community radio, sitting on a board of directors or getting out in the sunshine to plant trees in public spaces, there is an understanding that contributions (and rewards) are not all about money.

Marking National Volunteer Week, April 21 to 27, Governor General David Johnston calls us “a smart and caring nation.” The Week began in 1943 to draw attention to the vital contribution women made to the war effort on the home front, but it has evolved into a broad-based "Thank-you" and an appeal for more citizen involvement.

Volunteer Canada helps local organizations in the vital tasks of recruiting, screening, training, motivating and retaining volunteers ( They help set standards with a National Code for Volunteer Involvement, and keep up with new trends such as virtual volunteering, in which people help with needed tasks through their computers or smart phones.

There's always a temptation to measure the economic value of volunteering by multiplying an arbitrary wage rate by the number of hours contributed. Volunteer Canada says that would show an incomplete picture, partly because money is needed to support volunteering, and because you cannot put a dollar value on a healthy, engaged community.

The Volunteer Centre of Guelph-Wellington is the official clearing house for volunteer opportunities in this district. They can be reached at 519-822-0912 or through

They promote a "culture of giving" and serve a population of more than 200,000, dealing with hundreds of non-profit and charitable organizations in the community.

If you are wondering how many charities are officially registered in the Erin-Hillsburgh area, the answer on the Canada Revenue Agency website is: 35

That includes 18 church organizations, five cemeteries, the Agricultural Society, the Erin Arts Foundation (Century Church Theatre), the Air Cadets, the Optimists' CHICKEN Club, Station Road Nursery School, the Humane Society, Cats Anonymous, the East Wellington Family Health Team (Medical Centre) and East Wellington Community Services (EWCS).

There is a core of about 100 active volunteers at EWCS, with a total contribution of about 9,000 hours per year, said Erika Westcott, Manager of Community Services and Volunteers.

"Our volunteers are the heart and soul of our agency," she said. "Their contribution is huge – we could not thrive without them."

They are currently seeking volunteer drivers, coverage for their front desk, and assistance with their website.

Help is also needed in operating the book store and used clothing stores, where volunteers create an ongoing funding source for the agency. EWCS has a variety of programs for children, seniors and families in need. Find out more at

Erin FoodShed project promotes local sources

As published in Country Routes

Cathy Hansen is on a mission to change people's eating habits, promoting the benefits of choosing local, seasonal foods through the Erin FoodShed project.

Unlike a river watershed, a foodshed is not so much a defined geographic territory as it is a way to think about the sources of food. The whole world has become a foodshed for a prosperous nation like Canada, but critics say the long-distance food system is too expensive and harmful to the environment.

Hansen is an organic farmer and chef based in Ospringe, known for her efforts to educate people about the links between food and the effects of climate change, especially at Erin's Fast Forward film nights.

"One of the actions we can take to try to alleviate some of these catastrophes that seem to be coming down the pipe towards us, is to learn to feed ourselves well," she said recently.
Cathy Hansen teaching kids at St. John Brebeuf school about organic veggies.
LolaJean Gentles

"Climatic variation will inevitably alter the production and availability of food worldwide. The way we fertilize our fields and transport food around the globe has already had a big impact on the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"We'd like you to start thinking about food as something that comes from something similar to what you would think of as your watershed. It's food from nearby, and if it's going to help us with some of these dilemmas, it should be organically grown."

Organic farming uses practices that preserve water, and is done without the use of pesticides or fossil fuel based fertilizers.

"It takes 32,000 cubic feet of natural gas to make one ton of granular nitrogen fertilizer. In organic growing, the nutrients come from biological fertility. I know we've been talking about things that seem insurmountable, but organic food is a route that we can all take to try to avoid some of these seemingly catastrophic circumstances in the future."

Consumer demand for non-local, non-seasonal food results not only in a waste of energy, but in direct damage to the environment. Many of the foods we eat travel more than 3,000 kilometers to get from the producer to the dinner table. One third of all greenhouse gases produced in Canada are created by using fossil fuels to grow, process and deliver food.

The FoodShed project has been developed by Hansen with her daughter Emily, Heidi Matthews and LolaJean Gentles. They added to the hospitality of the film nights this year by providing simple, nutritious snacks, along with recipes for people to take home.

"One of our principles is 'Simple' – we wanted to make sure that the recipes are easy for people to adopt and enjoy with their families," said Emily.

Local food has the advantage of using minimal fuel to transport it to market, and requires less petroleum-based plastic packaging. Choosing seasonal food means adapting your diet to what is currently available fresh, or what can be practically preserved and stored for the winter.

The advocates of local food do not suggest that people should abandon foods that cannot be grown in Ontario. Products such as lemons, chocolate, curry or pepper add valuable variety to any diet.

"The final principle is 'Storied Food' – food that comes from our community that has a face," said Cathy. Many people appreciate knowing details about their food – the farms, people and growing methods in the FoodShed.

There is a plan to carry on the Erin FoodShed effort through Transition Erin, an umbrella group for a wide range of activities including the film festival, climate change issues, sustainable development, wastewater solutions and skills for a conserving lifestyle. They have created a FoodShed working group, and their website,, has an introduction and all the current recipes.

Hansen is active with the Canadian Organic Growers ( and recently presented an Organic Backyard workshop for Transition Guelph. She is also a Canadian Red Seal Chef, a program that sets inter-provincial standards and administers exams in various fields.

She and her husband Kaj operate Bernway Farm near Ospringe, specializing in organically grown vegetables and eggs from their flock of free-range hens. They also have a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) plan, where people buy shares in the produce and get a regular batch of seasonal vegetables.

Bernway Farm is a founding member of Erin’s Homegrown Harvest, a local network that includes All Sorts Acres, Deerfields, Everdale Farm & Environmental Learning Centre, Golden Innisfree Farms, Heartwood Farm, Mockingbird Farm, Whole Circle Farm, Whole Village Farm, Willow Creek, and 5 Acre Farm.

You can find out more at It includes information on the 200 Kilometre Lunch project, where Hansen went into schools to teach kids about the value of local food.

That effort also motivated the creation of a curriculum package for Ontario schools called "Take a Healthy Bite out of Climate Change" by Hansen, with Liz Armstrong, Heidi Matthews  and Amy Oucheterlony of the Climate Change Action Group of Erin. It is a free package that teachers can choose, to help students learn about climate change and develop healthier eating habits.

"Food is one part of life where kids can actually make some direct (+ delicious) decisions which have an impact on their carbon footprint," said Armstrong.

Piloted at area schools, the program is a tool to help meet Grade 5-6 curriculum objectives in areas like Language, Science & Technology, Geography, Social Studies, Math and Health.

Of course, there are many different efforts to promote the benefits of buying local food. At the Erin Fair Grounds on Main Street, the Erin Agricultural Society will once again host its Friday Farmers' Market, 3-7pm every Friday from June 14 until September 27. Vendors are being recruited, with the priority on local (Ontario) food. For more details, go to

The Rural Romp, a self guided tour to farms, nurseries and food businesses in North Wellington, will be held on Saturday, May 25, 11am - 4pm. The 8th Annual "taste•real" Guelph Wellington Local Food Fest will take place on Sunday, June 23.

More details will be published soon at their website,, where you can learn about other agricultural and culinary events and download a copy of the Local Food Map with information on a variety of farm and market outlets. Get a copy of the map mailed to you by calling 1-800-334-4519.

Here are some of the Foodshed recipes:

Bumpkin Cake

2 cups organic butternut squash or pumpkin (pureed)
1 cup fair trade organic sugar  OR  ½ cup honey
½ cup organic applesauce
¼ cup organic light cooking oil (Ontario sunflower)
4 organic eggs
½ tsp salt
Beat until well blended.
In a separate bowl combine:
1 cup organic all purpose flour
1 cup organic whole-wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp organic ground cinnamon *
½ tsp organic ground ginger *
* organic spices are readily available from natural food stores.
Add the wet to the dry ingredients.  Stir until well blended.
Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 cake pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for 40-45 min or until well browned and firm to the touch.
Freezes really well.
Tip for cooking pumpkins and hollow squashes:
Remove stem and poke holes with a fork.  Bake in a covered roast pan with ½" of water until very tender.  Butternut squash should be cut in half lengthwise, baked cut side down.  When cool, remove seeds, scrape out the flesh, and puree.  Pack in 2-cup portions.  Keeps 1 year in the freezer.

Maple Oatmeal Cookies - makes 3-4 dozen

½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup maple syrup (darker the better)
1 egg
¼ cup plain yoghurt
¼ tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat or whole spelt flour
¼ tsp each cinnamon and ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1¼ cup oatmeal
Beat butter and maple syrup until well blended.  Add the egg, yoghurt and salt and continue beating until well combined.
Mix the dry ingredients (not the oatmeal) and add to the butter mixture.
Finally stir in the oats until just blended.
Drop by small spoonfuls on a lined baking sheet.  Bake at 375 F 10-12 minutes or until dark golden brown.

Potato Cookies

1 lb. organic potatoes - cooked
½ cup nuts *
½ cup local honey
2 organic eggs
chopped nuts
* one local Black and Persian walnuts source is Grimo Nut Nursery in Niagara - they ship!
Grind nuts and add honey, one egg, and one egg yolk (save the egg white).
Mash in potatoes until mixed well.  Roll into 1-inch balls and then roll them in chopped nuts.
Brush with egg whites.  Bake at 350 F for 15 min.

Red Cabbage

1 head of organic red cabbage
2 TBSP organic apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Fair Trade organic sugar
1 tsp salt
½ cup red currant jelly  OR  ½ cup organic apple cider
1 organic apple (sliced thin)
Cut cabbage into 4 parts, cut into thin strips. Add cabbage to large pot along with all remaining ingredients.
Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Simmer uncovered for about an hour stirring occasionally.  Prepare in advance and refrigerate.  Reheat in oven or on stove top.

Beet Hummus - makes about 3 cups

4 cups cooked, peeled and cubed local, organic beets
2 TBSP organic tahini
½ - ¾ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp organic lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp local, organic garlic, finely minced
Boil the beets until very tender then peel and chop into 1" chunks.
Put the beets, garlic, and tahini in a food processor and blend until quite smooth.  Add lemon, cumin, and salt.  Continue blending until thoroughly mixed.
Adjust seasoning.
Tastes better after 1 day!

Great Green Dip

1 cup of Greek or strained yogurt
2 TBSP mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic (roasted or fresh)
Combine yogurt, mayonnaise and garlic in food processor until blended.
1 cup finely chopped kale (fresh of frozen)
½ cup finely chopped spinach or other seasonal greens (fresh or frozen)
2 chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped radish
¼ cup chopped carrot
Combine chopped veggies in a bowl and stir in yogurt mixture.
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ paprika
Season dip to taste.
Serve with fresh veggies, corn chips, or toasted pita.

Raise Your Eyebrows, Knock your Socks Off, Apple Cider-Chili-Bean Dip

Prep. time: 10 min   Makes approximately 2 cups
2 cups organic beans cooked & drained (Kidney & Pinto beans work well together)
1 cup organic dry beans.  Cook and drain.

¼ cup organic olive oil or local organic sunflower oil
1 TBSP organic apple cider vinegar
1 tsp organic lemon juice (or to taste)
2 tsp organic chili powder
½ tsp organic ground cumin *
1 TBSP organic tomato paste
Pinch of salt
* organic spices are readily available from natural food stores.
In food processor (fitted with a blending blade) combine all of the ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust flavours until it knocks your socks off!
This is great as a snack with crackers, pita, or carrot sticks.

Parsnip Chips

Did you know...  Parsnips are sweeter after a frost!  They can be left in the garden after the frost date and harvested through the winter and spring.
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Slice parsnips into approx. 1/8 inch pieces.
Toss in a bowl with organic olive oil or local organic sunflower oil.
Spread out on cookie sheet in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt if desired.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until parsnips are soft and golden brown.
Serve warm!