Minden Hills Council, by a narrow vote of 4-3, approved planning amendments to allow Francis Thomas Contracting (FTC) to use its new septage spreading field in the township.
Councillors Jennifer Hughey, Jean Neville and Pam Sayne voted against, while Mayor Brent Devolin, Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell, and Councillors Bob Carter and Ron Nesbitt were in favour at the April 25 meeting.
Approval was for a rezoning and Official Plan (OP) amendments. The OP change must now go to the County of Haliburton. FTC already has approval from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
FTC controller Joe Cox told The Highlander the company was relieved at the outcome. However, while the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) allowed the company to begin using the field as of May 1, it will hold off pending better conditions.
“We’ve still got a few weeks to go before we can really do much of anything,” Cox said on Monday.
Cox said half-load restrictions on roads means their driver would have to dump every time he pumps out a septic or holding tank. Further, he said the road going into the site is soft.
The field is located at 866 Bobcaygeon Rd., about 4 kilometres northwest of the village. The MECP has placed 33 conditions in the ECA, and the license is only for two years.
At the council meeting, Councillors Carter, Sayne and Neville expressed concern. Sayne said she thought the MECP had not factored in flood conditions when doing its assessment of the site. She was worried about the effect on neighbouring wells and the municipal drinking water system.
Neville is worried about the impact on human health, both for FTC’s employees but also the neighbours. She talked about air-borne contaminants.
“I’d like to know where the Ministry of Health is in this process,” she said. A former health care worker, she described the stringent conditions she worked under. Here, she said it’s a case of “spreading, spraying, dumping hundreds of thousands of litres of things such as feces, urine, blood.”
Carter admitted he was “conflicted” and called for a 10-minute recess before the vote. He said he felt FTC had followed the law but had concerns about the MECP’s process.
He also wondered what they will be testing for in wells at the site. He wanted council to consider a provisional change to the bylaw and OP. Planner Ian Clendening said if council were to make such amendments or vote down the planning changes it opened the township to an appeal.
Ultimately, he said the MECP took precedence on the matter. He added that Sayne’s concerns were not a recognized threat by the MECP.
“In the end, they [MECP] hold the hammer and will do what they want,” Mayor Brent Devolin said.
He added “I think the due diligence is done.”
Cox said FTC planned to be a good neighbour.
“From my mind, obviously we want to do the right thing … even saying that May 1 we’re allowed to spread on the field but knowingly we would be holding off until better or more conditions exist.”