January 01, 2014

Town to investigate fill moratorium

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin councillors continue to hope that the provincial government will bring in new regulations to control fill dumping, but in the meantime will investigate a temporary ban on the practice.

After a lengthy series of questions and comments from members of the public at a special meeting last month, council directed staff to investigate the feasibility of imposing a moratorium on the placement of fill on Town-controlled land. This is in addition to the ongoing review of the site alteration bylaw.

Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck gave a presentation showing how trucks making fill deliveries are causing serious problems for Erin’s already narrow and fragile gravel roads, including damage to ditches and entranceways, illegal dumping and contaminating the road surface with mud.

“These operations have very little regard for the mess the are leaving,” he said, noting that truckers are blatantly ignoring posted load limits, putting old bridges at risk.

“If one of these bridges falls down because of the heavy loading of these trucks, it will fall on the taxpayers and council to repair the bridge – unless the truck is caught and falls into the creek,” he said.

He said the Town has no authority to stop a moving vehicle, and that it has been difficult to get the OPP involved in this type of enforcement.  He said the Ministry of Transportation has one enforcement officer stationed in Waterloo to cover a large territory.

Van Wyck said that for landowners, the propect of getting paid $50 to $60 per truck load of fill material “often clouds their judgement / awareness of the quality of material they may be receiving.”

Fill affects drainage, he said, because impermeable clay is often placed on top of land that used to allow water to filter through. There is little control over silt and erosion, with potential damage to fish habitat in cold-water streams due to run-off.

Joe Spiteri said he is alarmed that thousands of loads of fill can be placed without any requirement for chemical sampling.

Van Wyck noted that the Ministry of the Environment has no definitions of what constitutes clean or contaminated fill. It does not require testing of material excavated from city development sites, nor a record of where it has been transported.

Resident Dave Dautovich said the Town had failed to “show leadership” on this issue, and said people expect them to work with conservation authorities to protect the land. He suggested a moratorium on fill dumping until an adequate system is devised.

Planner Sally Stull provided a map showing that much of Erin’s geography, especially including low-lying land near wetlands, creeks and rivers, is regulated by the conservation authorities, not the Town’s bylaw. She has noted that enforcement is the real issue, since virtually no one placing fill is applying for a permit to do so.

Mayor Lou Maeiron, who represents Erin on the Credit Valley Conservation Board of Directors, said no one seems to be applying for fill permits from CVC either.

Councillor John Brennan said he would prefer a system in which the Town would regulate fill projects like it does building projects, with the conservation authorities providing comments or objections when sensitive lands are involved.

The local group Citizens Against Fill Dumping has urged the provincial government to bring in consistent regulations on fill, to avoid the risk of contaminated material, to ensure that neighbours are notified of major projects and to provide a protective approval process.

Van Wyck cited one case in which the so-called “Qualified Person” at a firm transporting fill kept soil records that the MOE discovered were “incomplete, inadequate and inaccurate”.

He said MOE standards for cleanup of contaminated sites should not be used for municipal bylaws. Those standards indicate the amount by which pollution must be reduced on dirty sites, not the maximum to which clean sites can be polluted.

“In terms of groundwater, once contaminated it is very difficult and expensive to restore,” he said.

“Short term economic gain does not outweigh the cost of potential long-term environmental liabilities. Therefore, what is the net gain for the town and its citizens in allowing these operations to take place?”