• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

News clips: Ramara’s proposed contaminated soil facility

In Council Watch
Mar 12th, 2014
Packet & Times photo

Plan criticized at OMB pre-hearing

By Sara Ross, Orillia Packet & Times

BRECHIN – A contaminated-soil-remediation facility proposed for Ramara Township puts aboriginal hunting and fishing rights in jeopardy, says Daniel Shilling, Rama First Nation’s manager.

“Our concern is we have members who still live off the land. It is our aboriginal right,” Shilling said Wednesday.

Section 35 of the Constitution Act protects aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.

“We felt that this would jeopardize that if this contamination gets into the lakes,” Shilling said.

Shilling voiced Rama’s concerns during an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing Wednesday morning. The pre-hearing was led by Jane Seaborn, vice-chair of the OMB, in Ramara’s council chambers in Brechin. About 35 Ramara residents were in attendance.

NRK Holdings Inc. is looking to develop a soil-remediation facility on aggregate land at Concession Road B-C in Ramara. The petroleum-based soil would be treated through a process called bioremediation.

Before opening the soil-remediation business, the company will run a quarry on site to extract limestone.

On July 29, 2013, township council approved the quarry, but denied an official-plan amendment and zoning-bylaw amendment to allow for soil remediation. NRK Holdings has appealed to the OMB.

Shilling noted Ramara never consulted with Rama First Nation regarding the proposal.

He added the proposal goes against Rama’s commitment to source-water protection under the provincial Clean Water Act.

The source-water protection planning process is the first step in an approach to protect sources of drinking water before they become contaminated, states the Drinking Water Source Protection Act of Clean Water.

“Ramara belongs to source-water protection. I can’t see why they’re caving in on this,” Shilling said.

Township solicitor Ed Veldboom said the township is attempting to work toward a settlement.

In a 4-3 vote Monday, township council decided not to voice its objections to the facility during the OMB process. The township will be able bring its concerns to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) when NRK Holdings applies for an environmental compliance approval (ECA), Veldboom said.

“Probably the most important issue is that when it comes to zoning, there is nothing in the legislation concerning ECAs that says the zoning has to permit this,” Veldboom said.

That means even if the OMB denied NRK Holdings’ appeal, the company could still bring the project to the MOE.

“The township’s view says if there is going to be an environmental fight … it is best done when all of the environmental implications are available,” Veldboom said.

He added there is no timeline for when NRK Holdings could request the soil remediation site as it first has to exhaust a portion of the limestone.

Ron Webb, representing appellant NRK Holdings, did not agree with Veldboom’s viewpoint.

“It is my understanding the MOE will not process an application for an (ECA) unless the official plan and the zoning bylaw are in place,” he said.

Webb said the company will apply for an ECA “as soon as reasonably possible.”

Ramara Deputy Mayor Basil Clarke said he’s “very disappointed” the township will not be fighting the proposal at the OMB level.

Mayor Bill Duffy and councillors John O’Donnell, Bill Kahler and John Appleby voted in favour of not objecting to the project at the OMB level.

“This is the least expensive way to object to this project,” Clarke said.

He added NRK Holdings’ representative believes the MOE would not approve the project if the zoning wasn’t in place.

“To me, this is where the fight should have been,” Clarke said.

Veldboom said he did not agree.

“The way the legislation is set up, the MOE has to consider the zoning, but it’s not necessarily determinative,” he said.

Clarke, Ward 1 Coun. Marilyn Brooks and Ward 3 Coun. Erika Neher attended the meeting. Both councillors opposed the facility.

Jim Snoddon was upset the other members of council did not attend the pre-hearing.

“Council should have come here today — the mayor and (the other councillors) — to talk to the people. They’re supposed to represent us all,” he said.

Jennifer Fisher, who lives 600 metres from the proposed site, said NRK Holdings’ proposal has a lot of inconsistencies.

“I’ve met with a number of individuals who are professionals in the area of environmental planning and they not only validated my concerns, they also brought out some other (concerns),” she said.

One report states the soil remediation would be within a closed system, while another speaks to evaporation.

“If it’s a closed system, where is this evaporating to?” Fisher asked.

The company has also said some contaminants would be heavier than water. Fisher questioned how it would evaporate.

“If their main source of getting rid of this stuff is through the air in evaporation, what about the stuff that sinks?” she asked.

Veldboom said the MOE’s environmental compliance approval process will deal with specifics.

“That process deals specifically with all of the issues and the operations of the remediation facility. You will find there will be a lot more detail,” he said. “Right now, the planning applications have a lot of general statements … ”

For example, the proposal states a liner would be used to contain the soil, but it doesn’t say what the liner would be made of, Veldboom said.

Ramara resident Donald R. MacDonald does not think the soil remediation facility should be put on aggregate land.

“It’s an industry being plopped in an aggregate area,” he said. “It’s bad planning on the part of the township to cop out on the thing.”

MacDonald said he does not believe Ramara is a suitable location for the facility. If it is constructed, it should be put in the township’s industrial park on Highway 12 south of Brechin, he said.

“It’s costing the township big money to own that industrial park. This is bad business,” he said. “The township is a corporation and it needs to be run like a business.”

Scott Whalen works at a quarry near the proposed soil-remediation facility. He does not believe the facility would be a harm to the environment, he said.

“I worked in dump sites before where we deal with the liners and all that. In my own personal opinion, if it’s done properly, I think it’s perfectly safe,” he said.

Ramara could use the jobs a soil-remediation facility would bring, Whalen added.

The next OMB meeting regarding NRK Holdings’ appeal will be held July 16 at 10 a.m. Those wishing to speak during the hearing must contact the OMB by May 23. Witness statements must be submitted by June 16.

Ramara won’t fight soil facility at OMB

By Nathan Taylor, Orillia Packet & Times March 11 2014

RAMARA TWP. – The Township of Ramara will not fight a contaminated-soil-remediation facility when an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing gets underway Wednesday.

In a 4-3 vote at a meeting Monday, council decided against airing, during the OMB process, its objections to the facility, proposed to be built on Concession Road B-C in the township’s south end.

At Monday’s meeting, township solicitor Ed Veldboom offered three options in his report, the details of which were not released because the matter was discussed in closed session. Council directed Veldboom “to negotiate a settlement of the OMB proceeding.”

The issue was taken to the OMB by the project applicant, NRK Holdings Inc., after the township voted unanimously against the project, Mayor Bill Duffy noted Tuesday.

“The fight is not over,” said Duffy, who, with councillors John O’Donnell, Bill Kahler and John Appleby, voted in favour of not objecting to the project at the OMB level.

Council was told it could fight the proposal later, when the company attempts to gain environmental approval, Duffy said.

“Basically, (Veldboom) said, even if we won at the OMB, the applicant can take it further,” Duffy said.

But that decision didn’t sit well with Deputy Mayor Basil Clarke, who was joined by councillors Erika Neher and Marilyn Brooks in voting against Monday’s motion.

“I don’t believe for a minute that the taxpayers want this contaminated-waste site, regardless of the environmental issues,” Clarke said, adding the township shouldn’t wait until NRK Holdings seeks environmental approval to continue the battle.

“That is, to me, another fight,” he said. “I thought, ‘Let’s fight it (at the OMB) first.’”

He said residents likely “wouldn’t mind paying” the cost of the township taking part in the OMB hearing.

Backing out of the OMB process indicates council is “conceding that (the soil-treatment facility) is good for the township,” Clarke said.

But Duffy maintained Monday’s vote was a wise move.

“I’m just a layperson. You have to take your lawyer’s advice. I’m not saying I agree with the applicant,” he said.

NRK Holdings also proposed a quarry for Concession Road B-C, which is home to several already. That was unanimously approved by council, but the politicians said no to the soil-treatment plant, which would see petroleum-based soil from closed service stations trucked to and treated in Ramara.

Wednesday’s OMB pre-hearing will start at 10 a.m. in the township council chambers on Highway 12 in Brechin. During the meeting, residents will be able to voice their concerns.

“It’s just a shame their municipality won’t be beside them,” Clarke said.

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