Oversight lacking in Ramara as large-scale soil dumping accelerates
‘X’ marks five currently known large scale soil dumping sites in Ramara
The following letter was sent February 28 2018 by Michael Douglas of Ramara Township to Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke, Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell & Ramara Township Councillors
Re: Large Scale Soil Dumping in Ramara Township
Starting in early January 2017 truckloads of soil were steadily hauled and dumped on a 200 acre parcel of our neighbour’s land. Many neighbours’ to this property would not have become overly concerned if the project resembled a small-scale dumping of soil, however the scale of this project has reached ridiculous proportions. Over approximately the first five months of 2017 large truck loads of soil, numbering in the hundreds of loads, were seen passing each other in and out of the property on a daily basis. This created a very distinct increase in the elevation of the property leading to concerns over the diversion of the stream that passes under Simcoe County Road 47 and enters the property.
The owner of the property in early 2017 informed anyone who asked that the property is to become a gun range, and this was also the extent of the information provided when inquiries were made at the Ramara Township office. A building permit for a small pole barn of 384 square feet, with the address 1131 Concession RD 5, CON 4, LOT 2, was attached to the fencing at one of the two entrances to this property off of Simcoe County Road 47, however it disappeared in the spring 2017.
In light of the minimal and ambiguous information being shared by Ramara Township or any other controlling authority regarding the large-scale soil dumping project between Concession 5 and Concession 4 it was decided to access some of the information on the project available through Ramara Township via a Freedom of Information request. A Freedom of Information or FOI Request Application Form was submitted to the Ramara Township office on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017.
Based on the FOI Request information the conclusion from the point of view of Ramara Township is that a Permit to Place or Dump Fill under Ramara Township bylaw 2012.70 is not required based on the existing bylaws. The justification on the part of the Ramara Township Chief Building Official for the large-scale dumping of soil on the 200 acre parcel of land was concise and reads as follows.
“The Chief Building Official has advised that the type of property use validates the amount of fill and conforms to Part 3.1 (m) of bylaw 2012.70, whereby a fill permit under bylaw 2012.70 would not be required. Section Part 3.1 (m) states that: the placing of fill pursuant to the construction of a building or structure pursuant to a valid building permit which has been issued for the erection of the building or structure, if the site plan accompanying the building permit application provides sufficient information to determine that the placing or dumping of fill conforms with the provisions of this Bylaw; however, if no site plan accompanies the building permit then a fill permit application will be required.”
Thus, Ramara Township’s justification for the approval of the large-scale trucking and dumping of soil on the property involved two requirements:
1. A valid building permit being issued for the erection of a building or structure.
2. A site plan that provided sufficient information to determine that the placing or dumping of fill conformed with the provisions of the existing bylaw.
The large-scale dumping of soil took place, however the building permit turned out to be a sham and the structure was never built. If proper use and enforcement of Bylaw 2012.70 was allowed to take place, then the detail of a building permit being issued for a structure that was never to be erected would have been addressed by Part 6.1 (a) of Bylaw 2012.70. Which reads, “6.1 Council or the Inspector may revoke a permit for the following reasons: (a) it was obtained on mistaken, false or incorrect information;”
The site plan that accompanied the building permit application is poorly drawn and is particularly ambiguous regarding the location of the dumping of the large volume of soil on the property. A conservative calculation of the volume of the large-scale dumping of soil required to create the berm using the dimensions labelled on the original site plan are 68,888 cubic yards or 52,668.66 cubic metres. The trucking appeared to be done using average dump truck loads, which google tells me are 10 to 14 cubic yards in size. Therefore, a very conservative figure for the number of truckloads of this size could easily be 68,888 cubic yards divided by 14 or 4,920 truck loads.
Despite the existence of ample advanced information to indicate that a large-scale dumping of soil was to take place the critical provisions of Ramara Township Bylaw 2012.70, which would provide the necessary protection and oversight, were again discounted. Part 7.1 (a) through (i) of Bylaw 2012.70 should be in effect. Thus, “7.1 Where more than 2000 cubic metres of fill is proposed to be placed or dumped, the owner must obtain a permit and enter into an agreement with the Township and such agreement shall include the following conditions, including and not limited to:” Part 7.1 (a) through (i) of Bylaw 2012.70 lists the necessary provisions, which Ramara Township at some point in the township’s history has deemed necessary to address the environmental concerns involved in the large-scale dumping of soil.
In addition, Part 8.1 of Bylaw 2012.70 stipulates that, “Where site alteration involves the placing or dumping of fill on a lot that exceeds 2000 cubic metres of fill, the permit for such alteration may only be issued by Council.” Ramara Township has at some point foreseen the need to adopt the provisions laid out in Bylaw 2012.70, A Bylaw To Prohibit Or Regulate The Placing Or Dumping Of Fill In The Township Of Ramara. Bylaw 2012.70 exists to protect the interests of the residents of Ramara township and the protections it offers must not be undermined.
The large-scale dumping of soil in Ramara township is currently being achieved by excluding the critical provisions of Bylaw 2012.70, which would provide the needed oversight that a large-scale dumping of over 50,000 cubic metres of soil requires. In addition to the concerns raised by the massive volume of soil that is being dumped there is also the provisions contained in Bylaw 2012.70 which address the very significant need to determine the origin and composition of the large volume of soil being dumped.
The majority of the provisions contained in Bylaw 2012.70 that are intended to provide the critically needed oversight and monitoring of the origin and composition of the soil have also been circumvented based on an unfulfilled building permit and an ambiguous site plan. When the provisions of Bylaw 2012.70 are arbitrarily ignored an Application for a Permit to Place or Dump Fill and its specific protective stipulations are overlooked. The information provided by Ramara Township through the Freedom of Information request indicates that there was a total of only three soil samples taken of the huge source site stock piles, one sample at the Lascape Transfer & Recovery at 156 Disco Road in Toronto and two samples at the GFL site located at 1070 Toy Avenue in Pickering.
By circumventing the existing protective provisions of Ramara Township Bylaw 2012.70 the oversight and monitoring of a receiving site Qualified Person as defined in Bylaw 2012.70, Part 1, 1.1 (n) is effectively eliminated. A large-scale dumping of over 50,000 cubic metres of unwanted GTA soil was justified despite only analyzing three samples of the soil.
There is evidence of numerous incidents of poorly monitored large scale GTA soil dumping on rural Ontario properties. Although each of these incidents has its own unique set of circumstances the underlying commonality involved municipalities and in some cases the property owners being duped into accepting what has turned out to be contaminated soils originating from excavated construction sites in the GTA.
Thus, it is of utmost importance that due diligence be emphasized where any possible doubt may exist over the origin, composition and the volume of soils being dumped on rural Ontario properties. The standards for the disposal or dumping of soils must not be any less stringent for Ramara Township/Simcoe County than they are for the municipalities in the GTA or any other municipality in Ontario.
Unscrupulous operators have recognized the opportunity and freedom to fill their pockets at the expense of destroying large tracts of rural Ontario lying North, East and West of the GTA. This lawless activity cannot be allowed to continue. Large-scale soil dumping continues unchecked in Ramara Township and illegal dumping sites are regularly being identified.
When confronted Ramara Township representatives deny knowledge of these dumping sites. As the wardens of the health and welfare of Ramara Township residents Ramara Township has an obligation and duty to recognize the need to apply and enforce the existing Ramara Township Bylaw 2012.70 and obtain the necessary peer review of the existing Bylaw 2012.70 to safeguard the interests of the residents of Ramara Township.
The necessary assistance is available to have the existing Bylaw 2012.70 peer reviewed and if necessary updated to address the challenges of the large-scale soil dumping taking place in Ramara Township. Out of the difficult experiences undergone by other municipal jurisdictions such as Scugog Township concerned residents have banded their skills and knowledge together and have offered their help to municipalities in need of improving their bylaws.
The OSRTF (Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force) is made up of several groups that have been formed to challenge destructive environmental practises in Ontario and to promote more adequate environmental laws and legislation, at the municipal, county and provincial levels.
As an example, Carmella Marshall with the Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water has developed a bylaw template to address large scale soil dumping that has been adopted either as a whole or in part by the Township of Scugog and I believe partially by the Town of Whitby. The members of the OSRTF that we met have experience in many areas and are willing to provide assistance with delivering a much-needed deputation to Ramara Township dealing with the responsible management of large scale soil dumping.
Concerned Citizens of Ramara ccoramara(at)gmail.com