ROTHSAY – Two north Wellington municipalities have agreed to provide a resolution acknowledging the positive impact of the Rothsay rendering plant on the local economy and agriculture industry, to back the company’s appeal before Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal on a planned expansion.
However, both Wellington North and Minto officials stressed their resolutions shouldn’t be interpreted as comment on the technical or legal merits of the appeal.
Rothsay, a Division of Darling International Canada Inc., provides animal by-product collection, processing and feed ingredient manufacturing at its Rothsay – Moorefield Facility.
As part of an upgrade to the facility to expand poultry processing capacities, a new Environmental Compliance Approval (Air) has been issued to the facility by the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks.
“The amended ECA places certain conditions on Rothsay’s operations, notably new odour emission limits, that may not be (consistently) achievable and thus may result in stoppages, interruptions and/or reductions at the Rothsay Moorefield Plant, which has potential to have significant impacts on the agri-business sector we serve,” states a Dec. 11 letter from plant manager Duff Moore to municipal councils in Mapleton, Minto and Wellington North.
“Shut-downs, permanent or temporary, or other operational limitations or interruptions, will impact agribusiness supply chains and the direct and indirect employment base for many,” in the three municipalities, the letter states.
“It will also cause a chain-reaction in the meat and animal supply chain – both upstream and downstream of Rothsay,” Moore adds in the letter.
Darling International Canada has filed an appeal of a Director’s Order which is currently pending before the tribunal.
As part of the appeal process, Rothsay Moorefield will be presenting arguments to the Environmental Review Tribunal that “will include the significant impacts and importance of the facility/business to the local communities and to the agribusiness industry overall,” stated Moore in the letter.
The letter asks the municipalities for support for Moorefield Rothsay, Darling International Canada Inc. “with respect to the benefit of its critical agri-business operations.”
Moore states benefits of the local facility include:
- direct and indirect employment;
- direct and indirect economic impact on agribusiness supply chains from farm to food and feed; and
- direct and indirect impact to the environment through “sustainable and responsible value added conversion of otherwise waste materials.”
The letter requests the local municipalities ask the Environmental Review Tribunal to carefully factor into any decision the essential importance of Rothsay Moorefield to the local employment base, as well as agribusiness interests.
“Rothsay is not seeking alignment nor agreement in support of the technical and/or legal merits of the appeal, rather is seeking support and recognition of the importance of sustainable operations and services in the communities in which we operate,” Moore’s letter states.
At the Dec. 14 Wellington North council meeting, CAO Mike Givens explained the municipalities had been notified they had the option to be a party to the tribunal hearing as a participant.
“In our conversations with Mr. Moore … I suggested, in concert with Minto really, that Wellington North would acknowledge Rothay’s’ role in the community – that it’s important, that they’re a key employer, the service that they provide is key, it benefits some of our community members too; but that we didn’t necessarily want to get into the weeds as it related to the actual tribunal,” Givens explained.
“So that’s what the impetus for the letter was .. basically Mr. Moore was steered in that direction by myself and by the CAO in Minto.
“If Mapleton wants to take a more active role because they’re located in Mapleton. that will be a decision they make, but I indicated to him that I would be comfortable bringing this type of letter in front of our council for you guys to basically endorse Rothsay as a good business, as something that benefits our community and that would be the extent of our involvement.”
Despite Given’s assurances, some council members we’re hesitant to get the municipality involved.
“If we are a commenting agency and we comment and we have this endorsement, do we not risk having to go further into the full process?” asked councillor Sherry Burke.
“All we’re doing is giving this to Rothsay for them to take to the tribunal … but we will not be a party to the tribunal. We would actually have to apply to do that,” Givens explained.
“I’m a little bit concerned that we would comment about something that’s not really in our jurisdiction, or our municipality,” said Burke.
Mayor Andy Lennox said, “I share your concerns there.
“I’m also aware that this facility discharges into the upper Conestogo River, as does the village of Arthur and the potential downstream impact could also potentially affect future changes in the Arthur wastewater area as well.”
Lennox added, “I’m a little wary personally of getting involved in something that’s reached the tribunal stage with an endorsement of this nature, but I suppose if we’re just talking about them as an employer and as an essential service provider for some of our major industries there’s no harm in that, but it is a little unusual, I think, in its scope. I’m a bit ambivalent about it to be quite honest.”
The mayor concluded, “I certainly don’t want this in any way to be giving them some sort of an endorsement that this is a pass for less-than-stellar environmental behaviour.”
Councillor Steve McCabe said, “I don’t think that’s what we’re giving them, or allowing them to get a pass, but I think just recognizing they are in the community and they can help out our agricultural background and employ probably some of our residents. I think that’s as far as we go down this path.”
Burke said, “I guess as long as we’re certain that we’re not going to get tangled into their process … I guess it can’t hurt.”
Councillor Dan Yake suggested council remove a section of a proposed letter requesting the tribunal “work with Darling International Canada Inc. in addressing the appeal in a reasonable and balanced manner.”
“I’m okay with it up to that point,” said Yake. “I don’t’ think that we need to be requesting that the tribunal work with them in addressing the appeal.”
Council agreed to remove the section suggested by Yake and unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging and supporting the facility “as a responsible employer benefitting the surrounding communities.”
Minto council dealt with Moore’s letter on Dec. 15.
Councillor Mark MacKenzie expressed concern council could be perceived as supporting the company’s position on the technical and environmental aspects of the appeal.
“I’m just going over their motto, first of all. It says “sustainable solutions for a greener tomorrow” and here they are asking Minto to endorse an expansion and turn a blind eye to their compliance in environmental issues,” said MacKenzie.
“So I don’t think they’re closing. It’s just a new initiative, an expansion that they’re planning here and they don’t want to comply with the direction from the ministry. That’s my feeling on it.”
CAO Derek Thomson said, “What was expressed to me is that if the plant were to close there would be significant economic impact to all three communities: Mapleton, ourselves and Wellington North. All three CAOs received the same letter asking for endorsement that there would be economic impact if that plant were to close.”
“It really goes beyond that,” said councillor Judy Dirksen.
“This is a huge service to the agricultural community, really across Ontario, and I agree with what you said … but on a broader sense it’s really a big issue for agriculture as well. I know that Rothsay has spent millions of dollars on odour suppression and so on. And for those of us who have lived here for a while it’s certainly a lot nice than it was driving by than it was a number of years ago. I think that they are working at it.”
Dirksen added, “It’s going to be tough not to have some odour there just because of what they are doing. But they are providing a huge service and if they weren’t there the stench would be pretty bad in a lot of areas. I would certainly support this.”
MacKenzie said, “I don’t read anywhere where they saying they are closing. They want support for this expansion. So of course we don’t want them to close, but we can’t support a non-compliant environmental issue.”
Mayor George Bridge said, “I think that what they want to tell you is they’ve been a fairly good player and I’m with Judy on this … I remember when you couldn’t drive there without having your windows closed.”
Bridge added, “And it is something that’s needed. What do you do with animals like that if you want to recycle them into the system?
“It becomes a little less economically viable if they don’t get some support, or at least some relief, from the environmental people, or at least (an indication) that they want to work with them.”
Thompson said, “Council will not comment on their ongoing conversation with the ministry, but certainly council can send a message that there is some economic benefit to our communities.
“I couldn’t recommend you to involve yourself in a tribunal, that wouldn’t be professional of me. But the way that it’s worded, saying that it’s an economic benefit to the community, is fine.”
“They’re going to use our endorsement, like everybody else’s, when they appeal to this tribunal,” said MacKenzie.
“If they were going to close because of this, I might have a different view of it.”
“Its really up to the Environmental Review Tribunal to make those kind of decisions. That’s not what they’re asking us to do. They are just asking us to support a … resolution and to say that they are an economic engine in our community, which is absolutely true,” said Dirksen.
“To me this is pretty easy to support.”
“We’re not getting into the environmental stuff,” agreed Bridge.
Council passed a resolution to acknowledge the positive local economic impact of the Rothsay Moorefield operation, with Bridge, Dirksen and councillors Ron Elliott, Geoff Gunson and Jean Anderson in favour and MacKenzie opposed.
Deputy Mayor Dave Turton, who is employed by Rothsay/Darling International, declared a conflict of interest and did not participate in discussion or voting on the issue.
Mapleton council has not held a regular meeting since receiving Moore’s letter.
CAO Manny Baron told the Advertiser council is expected to deal with the matter at the next regular meeting.