December 03, 2014

Council supports call for Clean Soil Act

As published in The Erin Advocate

The difficulty of regulating the disposal of excess soil from construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area has Erin Town Council supporting a call for the province to enact a Clean Soil Act.

While municipalities and conservation authorities have responsibility for the actual dumping of soil on rural lands, it is difficult to control without provincial regulations to ensure that the fill is not contaminated, that the activity does not cause excessive disruption to rural residents and that the businesses involved pay the full costs of regulation, enforcement and road damage.

Anna Spiteri of Citizens Against Fill Dumping appeared as a delegation to council Nov. 25, and they voted in favour of a resolution she proposed, asking the provincial government to “develop a comprehensive strategy to regulate fill”, including new legislation to assist municipalities.

“Fill dumping is an ever-increasing problem in Ontario,” said Spiteri. “We all know that ultimately the provincial government must take leadership in dealing with it.”

She thanked council for setting up a committee that is working on a new Site Alteration Bylaw, and Councillor Deb Callaghan for chairing that committee.

Councillor John Brennan spoke in favour of the resolution, saying the Good Roads Association has an interest in the issue. “A lot of other communities like us are finding a heavy toll being taken on our roads,” he said.

The resolution says that the provincial policy of intensifying development within urban areas, to reduce the sprawl of development into farmlands, has created the fill problem. It urges the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to work with conservation authorities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and other provincial ministries to deal with compromised soil. The MOE has already been reviewing provincial policy on this issue.

The citizen group wanted support from its home council before meeting this week with MPP Ted Arnott and Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller, who reports on the government’s compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights.

The new Erin Council will be asked to confirm its agreement with the effort, and support will be sought from Wellington County, other municipalities, and groups such as AMO, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) and the Greater Toronto Countryside Mayors’ Alliance.

The soil issue has attracted considerable media attention recently, with other citizen groups demanding provincial action and the Toronto Star investigating irregularities in the disposal of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soil from the Pan Am Athletes’ Village project.

Environment Minister Glen Murray told The Star in October that better controls are needed to deal with what he termed a “serious issue” that for him is at the “top of environmental and economic concerns” in Ontario.