A presentation made by the Chair at ORA’s 16 October 2021 Annual General Meeting:
Photo by Linda Heron
The Belfountain Community and Planning Organization and Linda Heron are filing an Application for Investigation of the Corporation of the Town of Erin, under Part V, of the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993. We are very concerned that the Town is moving forward to the construction phase of the Project when it has not yet fulfilled key commitments it made in its Town of Erin Urban Centre Wastewater Servicing Class Environmental Study Report. The Ministry will investigate whether the Town contravened or violated Section 38 of the Environmental Assessment Act.
The ORA offers strong support for polluters being held accountable; however, that isn’t what’s happening here. Rather than strengthening enforcement tools that hold polluters accountable, this government is systematically and persistently dismantling, weakening or bypassing all environmental policy and legislation that was designed to protect the environment and deter those industries, corporations or individuals who would pollute and/or destroy the environment.
These ERO postings consistently mislead the public, especially in the top several paragraphs and titles, which contain misleading introductions to the proposed policy the government is proposing. In fact, you can always count on these “modernization” policy changes to be a further attack on environmental policy and legislation. It is even more despicable that these attacks have largely been carried out during the government’s declared COVID Emergency, where no public consultation is required, and what consultation that does take place is meaningless when the main objective is to cut red tape and remove any roadblocks to development and pollution, in spite of the public’s strong recommendations to protect the environment.
In consideration of the ecosystem benefits of a healthy West Credit River and its sensitive Brook Trout and Redside Dace population, we are recommending that inground infiltration of the final wastewater effluent be seriously considered, as a viable alternative to discharging warm sewage effluent directly into the West Credit River. Discharge of treated effluent by way of passive infiltration into the ground with slow percolation into this relatively small stream is the best way to ensure that the final effluent reaches the stream as natural and cold groundwater.
Judy Mabee, Chair of the Coalition and President of the Belfountain Community Organization stated that, “The Coalition is not deterred by the Minister’s Decision. We will continue on with our work to protect this highly valued coldwater Brook Trout population in the West Credit River. We are more than willing to work with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other federal and provincial regulators, including the Town of Erin and its consultants, to advocate for a wastewater plant that sets a new best in class industry standard for the protection of sensitive coldwater receiving streams.”
After careful consideration of the information provided by the Town of Erin, federal authorities, provincial ministries, the local conservation authority, the concerns expressed in your letter, other known public concerns, and advice from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency), I decided that the Project does not warrant designation pursuant to Subsection 9(1) of the IAA.
The Coalition has carefully reviewed the ESR to see what habitat related to endangered or threatened species, Schedule 1 SARA species, migratory birds or rare and uncommon plants may have been impacted by significant damage that was done on the Solmar property in late December 2020 and into the first quarter of 2021. In particular, the damage related to the premature removal of brush and trees in and around the Project site, as well as significant damage to a first order tributary to the West Credit River in a Provincially Significant Wetland and Greenlands Natural Heritage designated area (Addendum 2). The Coalition has ascertained that there were no permits or authorizations for any of this work to take place. It is very difficult to do additional bird and tree studies when a great number of the trees and habitat were removed and burned.
The proposed Erin Wastewater Treatment Plant (Project) would release over 7 million liters of sewage effluent daily into the West Credit River, which is a relatively tiny receiver stream. This large volume of sewage effluent would be released downstream at the Wellington County Line into one of the last remaining native Brook Trout Populations in southern Ontario. This self-sustaining Brook Trout population is thriving because of the West Credit River’s unique and pristine coldwater habitat.
To confirm our position that the habitat within the culvert is not degraded and supports Brook Trout throughout the year, we draw your attention to a video by Steven Noakes, a local videographer, entitled, Brook Trout fry at proposed outfall location Erin WWTP, taken on the 30th of April 2021 in and around the culvert at the proposed effluent discharge site. The video confirms that Brook Trout fry are abundant in and around the culvert and demonstrates that the culvert habitat is not degraded, removing any question that it supports Brook Trout. In addition, Brook Trout spawning activity occurs a short distance above and below the culvert, where redds are abundant within 75 to 100m of it. There is no question that this area supports Brook Trout in various life stages.
The purpose of Aaron Detlor’s communication was to “advise that the Haudenosaunee hold treaty rights over the area contemplated by this Project, and that the Project will interfere with those rights and interests… At the same time we are hereby asking Minister Wilkinson and the Crown generally to withhold any pending approvals subject to the commencement of a good faith process to uphold the honour of the Crown”.