After consulting with legal and planning experts the Township of Algonquin Highlands announced last week that it would not be seeking an injunction against the spreading of septage on a property off Highway 118.
In a press release the township explained its disappointment that the owner of the land did not need to seek rezoning from the municipality in order to spread waste. However the owner did follow the law and obtained environmental compliance approval referred to as an ECA from the province on Sept. 15 2015.
“Unfortunately MOECC [Ministry of Environment and Climate Change] does not require consultation with either the public or the municipality on any aspect of its approval process relating to the issuance of an ECA for a septage spreading field” the township’s release reads.
The situation arose in the summer of 2015 when a company sought the approval of the ministry to spread septage on land about one kilometre from Maple Lake on Hwy. 118 in Algonquin Highlands. While area residents were concerned the spreading would endanger water quality create a smell and lower property values the company was able to satisfy the ministry’s requirements and obtained approval.
The owner maintains that he has undertaken all of the necessary studies which show that his operation is not endangering water quality.
Some area residents have been critical of the process and have asked that the municipal council act on their concerns.
Repeatedly councillors expressed their own frustration that the company did not need to go through a re-zoning process and that their opinions as local representatives were not sought out by the province.
“A re-zoning application pursuant to the Planning Act would allow for public input as well as the ability of the municipality to approve or otherwise deny the application. However despite requests by the municipality for the proponent to undertake a re-zoning of the subject lands to have the septage spreading field designated a permitted use the proponent has refused or otherwise neglected to do so” the release says.
“Council has been advised that because of the provincially provided ECA a court application by the municipality for an injunction to restrain the septage spreading operation stands an extremely high likelihood of failure thereby exposing the municipality not only to substantial legal costs but also a possible damage claim; and ultimately the current use would continue.”
The release goes on to say that because of these obstacles the township will not be going forward with an injunction against the project.
However despite abandoning the legal route the township is still pursuing the issue.
Among actions listed is an upcoming meeting with the ministry “requesting the ministry to eliminate the disconnect in the application process which removes any power from local decision makers.”
Additionally they have caught the attention of the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association; have received word that the ministry is reviewing the hauled sewage program; and are looking at their own sewage facilities as part of budget deliberations regarding setting up a reserve for future septage programs.