I’ve been helping some concerned citizens of New Tecumseth investigate a sprawling, overt and largely unregulated landfill operation on this small aerodrome located on the north side of Highway 9, just west of the King-Caledon border.
Landfill coming from large Toronto-area construction projects has created a lucrative and surprisingly unregulated stage for long-term risk and damage to sensitive agricultural soils and aquifers, as this example readily demonstrates.
Bottom Line: Municipalities are responsible for regulating ALL landfill within their jurisdictions. Specifically, this is so regardless of whether or not specific industrial activities are regulated by higher levels of government.
In this case, New Tecumseth has a quite effective Site Alteration and Fill Bylaw. (Click to see it here) Thing is, they were not imposing it in this case, or at least, not until now.
The Good News:
New Tecumseth Council has woken up to this. A Stop Work order has been issued against the fill operation.
Following a well written deputation made by David Francis of the Tecumseth Pines Residents’ Association at last Monday’s New Tecumseth council meeting (click hear to read it), Council passed a motion that calls for a stop work order to be issued against the operation, and to concur with higher levels of government on how to ensure compliance.
The lengthy motion was passed after some deliberation between Council members. I believe it was feared by Council that site owner Ralph Palmisano will simply ignore the Stop Work Order (who purchased the aerodrome from the Volk family and who also owns Coneco Environmental Construction, the company operating the landfill process).
Fair enough: Get a court injunction followed by the authority of the O.P.P. to shut it down.
The Bad News:
Following the Stop Work Order – Palmisano is still working the site.
I can’t stress strongly enough that this site must be shut down ASAP.
- M.P.P. Jim Wilson is actively working with the Municipality and the Federal Government to force compliance with the order.
- Most importantly: A special Council meeting has been called for Friday at 5 pm at the Alliston Council Chambers.
[I'll was there. Read my accounting of this meeting and my analysis here]
Until then, O.P.P. may slow it down by enforcing their regulation of highways, but be assured the loads will keep coming, unregulated by anyone except T.T.C. engineers who we are supposed to believe are doing due diligence by approving all loads as safe. Is this sufficient? I think not.
There is currently NO third party to ensure this process is regulated to ensure consistency, transparency and accountability.
Why is this all so important in this case?
Consider this: The Volk lands sit directly atop a Moraine, “linkage area” – second highest area of constraint under the Oak Ridges Moraine Act. I bet if proper process was followed in this case, no permit would have been given.
I have no doubt that a permit was, and is required; and more doubtful a permit of this magnitude and scope would ever have be issued considering its location on the moraine.
Consider these three Moraine graphics, with the Volk site identified on each:
You can clearly see that the site could scarcely be in a worse location in so far as Moraine protection is concerned.
It is possible that Ralph Palmisano will argue that his plans for the site all within an exemption under New Tecumseth’s fill bylaw. Here is a reproduction of the relevant section on Page 6:
3.2 The exemptions contained in Section 3.1 are subject to the provisions of the Oak Ridges Moraine Plan and the Town’s Oak Ridges Moraine Conformity By-Law
2003-120, as, from time to time, amended or any successor By-Laws.
What does this all mean? Something pretty powerful, in my opinion:
The site does NOT qualify for any of the exemptions under the by-law. However, even if it did, the Moraine Plan captures even those sites that might be otherwise exempt.
In other words, not only is a permit required, but because of the moraine constraints, any proposed site alteration would have to pass a number of tests. A Natural Heritage Evaluation would be required as a condition simply to CONSIDER the application. It may not pass the tests.
See through the haze:
- The federal Transport Ministry has directly told me that infill is not within its jurisdiction.
- Entrepreneurs like Palmisano are relying on a smokescreen to authorities to allow him to earn his tipping fees.
- If a municipality doesn’t wake up and smell the coffee in a case like this (and fortunately New Tecumseth is) then, well, they are part of the problem.
- The Ministry of the Environment has a role to play here: I’m sure they will wade into this discussion quite shortly.
New Tecumseth is setting a great example by enforcing their fill by-law, and fast. Way to go New Tech.!
If other municipalities don’t wake up to this simple fact that industrial use of lands does not negate its obligations to regulate land fill, we are all in a state of risk to our aquifer health.
What does this mean for King Township?
King has been setting a good example. For King Township’s fill bylaw, click here. The original law was passed in 1997 and amended in 2002 to include the Oak Ridges Moraine.
In addition, it was amended again in 2005 to include authority in the Municipal Act to enter onto lands for site remediation. Most importantly: This power has been exercised at least 4 times since 2005, once as late as 2010, fines applied from $100,000 to $300,000.
I’m very happy to say that King is NOT a place to dump fill without a permit!
It’s not merely the existence of the remediation bylaw that makes this so: it’s the vigilance of Staff and Council, a lesson for all Municipalities.
Below is a short HD video I took of the Volk landfill operation activity on March 22, 2012. It certainly demonstrates the intensity and scale of this operation. See further below for some additional still photos.