Puslinch residents want councillors to rethink fill regulations

There is a strong contingent of Puslinch residents who want councillors to take a long and hard look at revamping township fill regulations.

While the current focus is a site alteration application by Marc Reid for 7827 Wellington Road 36, arguments made to council at the April 1 meeting could apply to any fill operation in the municipality.

Reid’s application seeks to import approximately 69,500 cubic metres of fill to allow for more efficient farming of the existing uneven land on the western portion of the Wellington Road 36 property.

Over three quarters of the total fill amount (54,349m3) is subject to a permit issued by Halton Conservation. The remaining 15,135m3 falls outside the regulatory limits of Halton Conservation and is subject to Puslinch Township’s site alteration bylaw requirements.

Area residents Dennis Lea and David Hamilton made presentations to council last week outlining concerns with the proposal.

Though the presentation by Lea was entitled “Farming 101,” its focus was strictly the proposed fill application on Wellington Road 36.

Lea said the township bylaw requires three monitoring wells, but to his knowledge only two are in place – as shown on the site plan presented to the township. His main concern was the degree of testing for the soil coming into the site.

Currently, the proposal is to have one soil sample for every 1,000 loads of soil received.

“This is inadequate,” said Lea, who contended a fill operation of this size should require a sampling plan and use of a laboratory capable of analyzing chemicals of concern within the Environmental Protection Act.

“The question is how diligent does the township want to be? The more diligent you are the more you mitigate liability,” he said.

Lea stated he had 23 years experience working in the chemical industry.

He suggested that instead of sampling one in 1,000 trucks as proposed, the township should require a combination of sampling every truck and analyzing a composite of 25 trucks.

Lea also recommended taking five samples from each truck as it is emptied, and that the proponent not be allowed to spread the soil until an analysis is completed.

If the soil tests are not positive, Lea said the soil could either be retested or removed from the site.

“It is much easier to do while the soil is sitting in a sequential order rather than after it has been dumped and spread,” said Lea, who added that approach should be taken throughout the entire fill operation.

Lea also recommended all sampling be done on site by the laboratory doing the analysis and all samples should be labelled and retained for five years.

“And all those results should be public records,” Lea said, adding that is standard practice in the chemical industry.

Lea contended current regulations do not adequately address soil testing. He said the township “has the authority and responsibility to see that this entire dump – whatever you want to call it – application is tested from day one until the end of the operation.”

Lea suggested that whatever sampling plan the township authorizes should first be reviewed by legal counsel and then scrutinized by an environmental lawyer.

“If you don’t get it right today, there could be problems four or five years in the future if things go south.”

Councillor Susan Fielding appreciated Lea bringing his concerns to the table. She said, “It is a decision we are taking seriously. You bring up a lot of valid points.”

Councillor Wayne Stokley added he understood the concerns, stating, “As a council it may be difficult to make a decision, but we need to bring all the information to light to make a decision.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said with the presentation title “Farming 101,” the numbers presented reminded him of testing of his own fields for nutrient analysis.

“I can see the parallel you are trying to make,” said Bulmer, who agreed testing one in 1,000 loads did not seem sufficient but added there is language in the current agreement requiring drivers to provide proof the soil is clean, along with test results.

Mayor Dennis Lever said all the information will come back to council as it considers the application. He asked for clarification on whether the actual samples or simply the test results will be retained.

Lea advocated retaining both.

David Hamilton spoke on previous fill projects in the neighbouring townships; permit numbers supplied by broker; positive benefits; water quality results of fill operations; history of water quality post fill.

“How can a dump site of this magnitude possibly benefit the township or its residents?” Hamilton asked.

Hamilton saw no one benefiting from the agreement other than the current landowner. He also questioned “why anyone would hand over their most precious natural resource – our water.”

Hamilton attended a meeting of Halton Conservation focussing on the project and also  on source water protection. Hamilton said the issue of the fill dump site in Puslinch came up quickly in the discussion at that meeting.

Though board members asked why there was no discussion prior to the conservation authority issuing its permit, the application had met the required criteria.

Hamilton said there are already 300 loads of soil at the Reid site and, “I am already concerned about my water.”

Hamilton mentioned a situation in another municipality where several thousand truckloads of soil were brought in from the GTA, resulting in contaminated wells with contamination linked directly to the fill site.

“I believe Puslinch has an opportunity to set a precedent for all fill dump sites. It can be landmark positive … or it can be negative,” said Hamilton, suggesting Puslinch has a chance to make a difference.

CAO Karen Landry noted  a coming staff report will respond to questions raised during this process – similar to queries answered in a previous public meeting.

In a closed session prior to the regular council meeting, councillors reviewed a confidential report from the township’s solicitor (regarding litigation or potential litigation, and advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose) regarding the township’s site alteration bylaw.

Puslinch will be considering the site alteration application on April 15. The venue for the council meeting has been switched to the Puslinch Community Centre in Aberfoyle to accommodate a larger group if necessary, Lever said.