Puslinch Township wants to shut down Badger Daylighting

Owner says province 'is in favour of our operation' and issue has been 'blown way out of proportion'

ABERFOYLE – Puslinch Township would like the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to shut down a business it claims is operating illegally in the township.

Several years ago Badger Daylighting submitted a bylaw amendment seeking to permit a hydrovac operation at 6678 Wellington Road 34. Council denied the request in March of 2023.

The property is split-zoned. The northern 2/3 is zoned specialized extractive and the southern 1/3 is zoned specialized agricultural. 

Capital Paving holds the license for the extractive portion and it’s nearing the end of its license.

Hydrovac is the process of depositing, draining and drying liquid soils. This kind of operation might contain contaminants and has the potential to impact groundwater.

Badger appealed council’s decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), only to withdraw the appeal last month.

And now Badger has applied for environmental compliance approval (ECA) and the Environmental Registry of Ontario is seeking comments on the same property to allow the same business.

“Badger has continued operating in direct violation of the zoning and without any ECAs … and that illegal use continues every day as confirmed by recent site inspections in May/June 2024,” states a report by interim CAO Courtenay Hoytfox.

“Therefore, Puslinch council expects the hydrovac use to cease and the ECA application to be withdrawn. 

“However, should the use continue, Puslinch council requests that the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) take steps to enforce compliance with the Environmental Protection Act, its regulations, and the obligations therein.”

Soil samples indicate levels of harmful minerals are contained in the soil and in surface water on the site, according to a review by the township’s hydrogeologist.

According to Badger, liquid soils imported to the site are being used for rehabilitation of the Capital Pit.

“However, the Compliance Assessment Reports filed by Capital Paving in each of the last two years (2022, 2023) indicate that no rehabilitation occurred during those years,” states Hoytfox’s report.

“As such, this site is seemingly being used as a waste transfer site, with most or all dry soil presumably being shipped offsite.

“The township is unsure why the MECP would not take enforcement action where an ongoing operation that otherwise requires an ECA is bringing in liquid soil every day.”

Councillors voiced their frustration with the process and support for the report, which will be sent to Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott and Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae, as well as the appropriate ministries.

“The MNRF needs to shut them down,” said Mayor James Seeley.

“We need teeth to ensure the only thing happening at an aggregate pit is aggregate operations.”

Frank Ertl, owner of Badger Daylighting, has a different tale to tell.

He’s been running the hydrovac operation in Puslinch for 10 years without a problem.

It’s only been in the last two years that the province changed regulations and now requires outfits like his to have environmental compliance approval.

So that’s why he started the process, he said in an interview.

But even before it was required, Ertl said he’s been testing the soil and water on the site. He added he now has 10 years of water and soil data on which to base his application.

“We went far beyond MECP requirements,” he said, noting the ministry has been on site several times in the past decade, “and is in favour of our operation.”

The new regulations also require him to apply for a zoning amendment, which is why the matter came before council.

Ertl said 90% of his clients are public utilities – gas, hydro and water.

Badger is called to vacuum holes for new hydro poles, for example, where infrastructure is too sensitive for an excavator.

They vacuum a hole and it’s that material that is taken to the Puslinch site, spread out to dry, screened, and the remaining soil is used to rehabilitate the pit.

“We bring in soil, not waste,” Ertl stressed.

He said he withdrew the OLT appeal because it was getting too costly.

“I’ve spent considerable money trying to work with the township and financially I’m stressed,” he said.

Ironically, Ertl said Puslinch Township has used Badger to help with its culvert replacement program, “and I’ve been directed by the township to dump liquid soil behind the township office on Wellington Road 34.

“They should be a little more concerned about what they are doing,” he said, adding he doesn’t believe the township collects water or soil data at the public works site.

“This thing has got blown way out of proportion.”