Perth South Council Recap

By Chet Greason

Concerns were raised by two different delegates at a recent meeting of Perth South County Council concerning new regulations being downloaded upon municipalities by authoritative bodies, and whether the township has the ability to comply.

The meeting, held on the morning of Jan. 9, began with Bill Dietrich of Dietrich Engineering presenting his report about the McNamara Drain, which was commissioned last February.

Following his recommendation regarding the specific site in the report- Dietrich’s firm suggested the town incorporate an inline pond constructed on a piece of private property as part of the McNamara Municipal Drain- he was asked about some of the other rural drains in the area. One of these was the Debrabendere Drain, which services much of the community of Rannoch.

Dietrich cautioned Council that the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority- the body that oversees water and drainage issues in relation to the Thames River watershed, is looking to implement new policies where large drains- those fed by over 125 hectares of land- will no longer be issued permits to be enclosed within a pipe system.

“They’re too big,” said Dietrich. “They won’t touch them.”

The authority, he said, will instead insist that such drains be kept open in ditches and streams, rather than a system of closed pipes. Councillor Bill Jeffrey called that unrealistic.

“A closed drain is going to keep settlement out of the water,” he observed, noting one of UTRCA’s major concerns is water quality. This potential policy, he argued, seemed contrary to the Authority’s mandate.

“I don’t disagree,” said Dietrich, adding he felt it was important that farmers know of the impending policy changes.

When reached for comment, Karen Winfield, the UTRCA’s Regulations Officer, said what Dietrich described as impending policies are actually more like guidelines, and that the Authority prefers open courses to closed as they have more environmental benefits for headwater streams.

First, she says open courses have better flood storage capacity, as enclosed pipes can only hold as much water as the pipes can fit. Open courses can spill over.

This also affects erosion. Sediment and roughage in an open course, like vegetation, can slow water down, decreasing surface erosion. Pipes tend to face heavy erosion at their terminus, where water can eject at high speeds.

Ground water has a better opportunity to infiltrate and recharge with an open course; and open courses create habitats for flora and fauna, including fish, bees, and any animal that might drink from a stream.

However, Winfield acknowledges that closed courses are often preferred by landowners as they provide more arable land for farmers, and make access easier for combines and other heavy equipment. That’s why she says the guidelines for permitting a closed course take a number of factors into account, such as species at risk, cold water vs. warm water, and heritage; but size is one of the biggest issues.

“We do allow enclosures of smaller water courses,” she says. “But once you get up to 125 hectares, that’s a pretty big size.”

She adds that it doesn’t mean a water course of that size can’t be enclosed, “But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere.”

Dietrich wasn’t the only one struggling with new policies. Marcel Misuraca, who presented a report on the St. Pauls and Black Creek water systems on behalf of the Ontario Clean Water Agency, also expressed concerns, this time about new standards being implemented by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Lawyers and members of compliance teams within his organization, he said, have been fighting with the MOE.

At issue are new standards regarding chlorination levels. New policies issued by the MOE, he said, will see large amounts of chlorine left to sit in pressure tanks.

“Our concern is bladders,” he said, the lifespan of which are generally between five and ten years. “But if you suddenly blast it with that much chlorine, how long is it going to last?”

The attitude of the Ministry, he added, was that they are just there “to tell you what to do, not how to do it.”

According to Misuraca, the former systems at both St. Pauls and Black Creek (in Sebringville) had operated without issues for years. However, an inspector from the Ministry recently compiled a report on both, pointing out a number of aspects that needed upgrading. A new system was installed through a grant issued to the township. Misuraca says his employees then had to respond to alarms at the pumphouses- for things like low chlorine levels- multiple times over the course of three days.

He credited Weitzel Pumps with developing fixes for the new system that solved the alarm issues while still ensuring both systems were up to code.

Misuraca also takes issue with the Ministry’s requirement for a written report every time a pressure tank is replaced in the province. Current Ministry resources, he noted, are not up to the task of compiling these reports, as thousands of tanks are replaced in Ontario every year. If the bladder issue turns out to be a concern, that number will only increase.

Budget meeting rescheduled

Due to a number of councillors and staff being on vacation, a budget meeting that was originally set for Jan. 30 has been rescheduled. The new meeting will be held on Feb. 22. A public budget meeting will follow on Mar. 12 at 7 p.m.

Barker takes leave of absence

Councillor Cathy Barker has asked for a leave of absence of three months. The leave will see Barker’s seat on Council vacated for that period. However, in granting Barker the leave, Council ensured that she will be able to resume her position once she returns, and no replacement will be sought.

Barker is scheduled to return for Perth South Council’s first meeting in April.

CORRECTION: In an article in the December 22nd edition of the St. Marys Independent (Perth South facing $170,000 cut to funding) Director of Public Works Ken Bettles was misidentified as a councillor. The Independent apologizes for the error.

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