June 2001 Newsletter

A lot has changed since the September 2000 newsletter was distributed to several hundred Ashfield as well as some Colborne lakefront residents. This newsletter recaps events for the past several months, and provides an insight into changes still underway.

Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh -- a new community


The November mail-in vote was a major success. It was well organized and there were few problems. The improved access and a high level of community interest resulted in an overall improvement in turnout from a level of 40% to about 60%, with both lakefront and rural residents participating at about the same rate. Clearly the success sets the stage for the use of the mail-in vote in the next election.

The new Council consists of 2 Council members from each ward and the Reeve (Ben Van Diepenbeek). While planning for amalgamation took place over the last several months of 2000, the real work is the actual implementation by our new Council. Some of the challenges being addressed are: consolidating and organizing staff; revamping different policies, processes and by-laws into one cohesive framework; integrating financial plans; and generally understanding the new larger community to help with day-to-day decision making. Several of us have observed how well the new Council is working together as a team.

Council e-mail address is clerk@acwtownship.ca

Ashfield-Colborne Lakefront Association

While there was an Ashfield Lakefront Association (ALA), the new ACLA, is an expanded umbrella organization to include the different lakefront groups for both Ashfield and Colborne wards. It is estimated there are about 30 different lakefront groups with a total of about 1000 residences or 2000 residents. An effective ACLA umbrella organization has the potential to:

As an umbrella organization, ACLA does not replace individual beach associations. Rather, it tries to augment them by collectively focusing on broader common issues that these associations feel are important.

We are still at the early stages of getting mobilized, but the following discussion of some specific objectives gives you some idea of the progress that is being made.

ACLA website, www.northwesthuron.com

The website is operational and is regularly being posted with new information. More detail behind many of the topics in this newsletter is posted at the web-site. Take a look, and give our webmaster your feedback. In addition, the Huron Sands Association has its own web-site where items specific to that association as well as general interest to the lakefront are posted.

Expand lakefront association membership

Currently there is regular contact by e-mail with 37 "Communication Coordinators " representing 21 different lakefront groups. The goal would be to have a couple of volunteers to make contact with the remaining 9 lakefront groups, determine their interest in joining the ACLA, and provide general guidance to help them participate.

Develop an e-mail communications network

Our experience, so far, is that about 50% of the residences have access to e-mail (at home or at work or even a close relative), and the use of e-mail is growing. The idea is that each lakefront group would create an e-mail directory for their members who have e-mail, and the "Communication Coordinator" would be a contact point to pass on information (by e-mail or other means as appropriate). This trickle down approach is easy to maintain, is virtually cost free, and has the potential to quickly keep several hundred of our residents informed electronically. The key to success is each beach maintaining a Communication Coordinator contact point, a distribution list of their members who have e-mail, and passing information on through that Communications Coordinator.

2001-2 Stream Testing Project

Using trained volunteers, and in partnership with Maitland Conservation Authority, water samples will be taken at several streams as they cross Hwy #21, sent for lab testing, and the data compiled. Results will also be posted on the North West Huron web-site. The streams selected will be those closely linked to beaches with high e-coli readings over the summer of 2000 according to Huron County Health sampling. Because of government cutbacks, the projected $3000 cost for the lab testing will be paid for from ACLA membership dues and additional voluntary contributions from ACLA members. An application to Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council for funding assistance has also been made.

Council Brief

In March, a brief from the ACLA was presented to Council discussing several issues of importance to our members. We indicated our approach would be to support our membership and the larger community by working constructively and openly with Council. (A full copy of hte presentaiton is on the ACLA website.)

Annual Information Meeting

A team volunteered in mid-May to plan this meeting to be held at the Saltford Hall just north of Goderich on Sunday, August 5. For example, this is an opportunity to bring in guest experts to talk with us about important issues. Team to provide further information.

Septic System Maintenance

A team was formed in mid-May to pursue this topic further. Essentially the ACLA role would be to provide information, encourage our members to personally commit to proper septic system use and regular maintenance, promote periodic mandatory independent inspections (for the entire community), and ensure waste disposal methods are environmentally sound. Basically, we need to actively ensure we are not part of the environmental pollution problem. Team to provide further information.

Unassumed Roads Upgrading/Maintenance

Council seems willing to participate in a structured dialogue with appointed representatives from those lakefront groups that would like to consider improvement. The cost would have to be largely born by the lakefront group wanting upgrades, although it is possible some cost sharing with the Township could be negotiated. The next step would be for the lakefront groups who want to seriously pursue this issue to appoint a representative and for the representatives to form a team, elect a team leader, and to pursue further discussion with the township. Lakefront groups interested in pursuing this could communicate back through their Communication Coordinator, and the ACLA can help put the interested parties together.

Periodic Newsletter

In order that newsletters such as this will actually continue, an editor/news team is being sought to manage future issues.

ACLA's Outlook

ACLA is a volunteer organization made up of average people (volunteers do not get paid for their time or personal expenses such as gas). To be successful (and in fact to continue) we must have:

  1. more members to volunteer to lead and work as a team on the various projects initiatives
  2. modest amounts of funding
  3. active interest and support of the full membership

ACLA is off to an excellent start, but it will need more of these three ingredients for the momentum to continue. It is up to everyone, don't count on someone else doing it.

Operating needs for the ACLA for 2001 are projected to be approximately $5,000. A large chunk of this will be used to cover the 2001 testing costs for the Stream Testing project mentioned above. The rest is to cover miscellaneous expenses such as printing and meeting costs. As well, we would like to build a small reserve that could be used, for example, to enable second year expansion of the Stream Testing project.

Funding requirements will be met in 2 ways. First, ask that each member lakefront organization contribute $10 in annual dues per member in that association to the ACLA. Because the size of the member organizations varies quite widely, setting the dues this way made sense. Second, provide a means for individual members to personally contribute funding to the Stream Testing project and get a tax receipt for donations in excess of $100. Contributions should be made payable to "Maitland Valley Foundation" and sent to our Treasurer,

Mr. Geoff Walker,
RR#3, Goderich, Ontario,
N7A 3X9

Please note on the cheque that the funds are to be used for "ACLA water testing".

Note: Success on this summer's initiatives will be an important indication as to whether the ACLA will flourish and add value to our members. The ACLA began with a small group of about 5 people, and since then, a number of people have joined the core group and volunteered to help. Success now depends on the leadership, commitment and follow through of the larger group (and additional volunteers). Launching ACLA has taken a significant effort; this summer will determine whether we can continue the momentum.

Beach Water Testing, Huron County Health Unit

This important program will continue again this year from mid-May through the end of August. Regular weekly samples are taken to measure e-coli levels, and, if the results exceed Provincial Water Quality Guidelines for swimming, then beaches are posted with a red sign warning against swimming. We encourage you to heed these warnings both for yourselves and your children. Anecdotally there are stories of eye and skin infections and worse. For example, Ashfield and Amberley beaches have already been posted, and Amberley had a very high e-coli reading of 3740 on June 4 (the guideline is 100). As well, keep children away from the natural drains along the lake. You can easily check to find out if your beach is safe for swimming. Simply phone the free hotline at 1-877-837-6143. During the day ask for the information hotline at extension "501". After hours just dial "*501". As an alternative, you can also get the actual weekly e-coli reading for each beach at the Huron County website, http://www.srhip.on.ca/hchu (click on "Water Quality").

Property Assessments and Taxes

Residential property assessments, including seasonal residences, rose approximately 12% on average. However, farmland rose significantly higher than that. So the end result is likely to be some shift in the tax burden from residences to farm properties. The budget for the township, including a final determination of 2001 revenue needs, is still being worked on. A draft is expected this month. First tax installments were based on the standard approach of charging 50% of the previous tax bill. Any adjustments (up or down) to your total 2001 taxes due would appear in your next notice.

New Drinking Water Guidelines

A number of our lakefront communities are serviced by shared well water/distribution systems. Service may be provided by the Township (example, Huron Sands), or by a private operator, or ownership/responsibility may be shared by a group of owners as a cooperative. All shared systems servicing 6 or more residences are impacted by the legislation.

It is possible that some private operators could decide they don't want to provide a service anymore. After Walkerton, there are concerns about liability. As well, the "one-size fits all" approach in the regulations put out by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), particularly when it comes to ongoing testing, are both onerous and expensive to manage for smaller systems. At least one of the lakefront groups had to scramble quickly this Spring just to get drinking water.

Everyone seems to agree that replacement with dozens of private individual drilled wells is not the right answer (more opportunity to contaminate the aquifer, reduces aquifer pressure). So far, moving to a cooperative arrangement seems to be the direction being taken. The participants in the cooperative collectively assume the responsibility for needed improvements to the system, as well as the ongoing operation. Simple agreements eliminate liability for the participants in the well cooperative. Information on the new regulations can be found at the MOE website, www.ene.gov.on.ca, or call the MOE in Sarnia at 800-387-7784.

It would seem that the negative feedback from the "one size fits all approach has already got some attention at the Ministry. Individuals can help motivate the Ministry into action by writing a letter to

The Honourable Elizabeth Witmer, Minister of the Environment
135 St. Clair Ave West, 12th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M4V 1P5

or elizabeth_witmer@ontla.ola.org, requesting a more practical and yet still effective approach for these smaller systems.

Lake Water Levels

Lake Huron water levels continue to be almost 2 feet below average. Higher precipitation could push lake levels above last summer, average precipitation would push levels 2 to 4 inches lower, and with hot-dry conditions levels could approach the record lows set in 1964. The difference between the record high (1986) and the record low (1964) is a range of almost 6 feet.

Intensive Livestock Operations (ILOs)

Huron County Interim Control Study (May 22, 2001)

The following from the covering memo on this study indicates why ILOs continue to be a critical environmental issue for our community:

  1. A new livestock barn or expansion (100 or more livestock units) came into production every 10 days on average in Huron County from 1996 through 2000.
  2. The Maitland River watershed has the highest concentration of manure produced in all of Canada according to Statistics Canada (10 X higher than the average).

The study is very comprehensive (approximately 200 pages). Arrangements have been made for several representatives from ACLA member beach groups and PROTECT to receive copies of the study and provide feedback on July 7 to Scott Tousaw, of Huron County Planning.

New Provincial Farm Legislation

The bottom line is that the Province (Ministry of Agriculture) has failed to deliver on its promise for new more environmentally-responsible farm legislation. Hearings were held in January 2000, a report delivered to the Minister in April, the Minister issued a set of directional statements in June acknowledging a need for significant changes, and promised to provide draft legislation in the Fall of 2000. The Province DID NOT DELIVER the promised new legislation.

A new Minister was appointed in January 2001. On May 2, the government announced, it "will introduce a comprehensive nutrient management strategy that will provide Ontario's agricultural industry with clear environmental protection guidelines". Further, Minister Coburn indicated, "in the near future, I expect to outline this preferred approach in more detail including its timeline". A critical reading of these statements might suggest there could be continued delays, or that once finally delivered, the legislation will fall significantly short of the improvements required. Is the Ministry backpedaling from strong legislation to "strategies" and voluntary "guidelines"? We have heard delivery promises before, and "in the future" seems awfully vague. Many peoples patience with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs ran out a long time ago.

(Note: New Legislation was introduced on June 13, 2001 - see www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/ for news release and full text of the proposed legislation).

Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Moratorium

This is actually called an Interim Control By-law. In June, 2000, Ashfield passed a moratorium to prevent the building or expansion of a liquid manure intensive livestock facility greater than 99 Livestock Units. In August, 2000 Colborne followed Ashfield's lead and implemented an identical moratorium.

Note: the term Livestock Units (LU) is used to equate the amount of waste between different animals, since the amount of waste varies greatly. For example, 1 LU = 1 cow, 4 finishing hogs, 20 young weaner pigs, or 200 broiler hens.

The Ashfield moratorium was challenged by Country Pork (owned by Jason Terpstra) who had applied for a building permit to build a 9000 weaner pig operation (450 LU) in Ashfield. Country Pork applied to the courts to have the moratorium quashed. Ashfield vigorously defended its position, and the court found in Ashfield's favour. Country Pork has appealed the court decision, but a court date for the appeal has not been set. As well, Country Pork also appealed the by-law to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). The hearing, which was to start June 4, has been put on hold at the request of Country Pork.

On June 5, 2001 A-C-W Council extended the moratorium until June 5, 2002 for Ashfield and Colborne, and initiated an identical moratorium for Wawanosh. The extension allows time to review the Interim Control Study (see above), prepare amendments to various by-laws and procedures, and to hold one or more public meetings in consideration of such amendments.

NOTE: It is appropriate to recognize the leadership being shown by our Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council on this issue. We are fortunate that they have shown a strong determination to achieve a better balance between agricultural and environmental interests. As well, we need to understand there will not be further extensions to the moratorium. The bylaw framework that will flow from the Interim Control Study will be the new ground rules (pun intended!) once the moratorium comes off.

MOE versus Acre-T Farms

The 8-day trial, held in January, 2001 in Goderich, relates to two separate spills that occurred in May, 1999. Justice of the Peace Rodney ruled that Acre-T had exercised due diligence. The MOE has appealed, but a date for the appeal hasn't been set. This case perhaps illustrates how time-consuming, difficult, and expensive it is to achieve accountability under the current voluntary framework of guidelines and suggestions issued by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The Geene Proposal

Anyone who has been on our e-mail distribution will tell you this has been complicated, and taken many twists and turns.

The applicant's initial proposal included building three 2,000 liquid manure finishing hog-barns in Huron-Kinloss Township just north-east of the hamlet of Amberley at Hwy#21 and #86. He also proposed a 42,000-broiler poultry barn (dry manure) in Ashfield Township just south of Amberley, (lakeside of Hwy #21). The combined operation would produce 2.3 million gals of liquid hog manure, and 375 tons of dry poultry manure. The proposal was to import 61% of the liquid hog manure into Ashfield and spread it on lands he owns on both sides of Hwy #21 near Amberley. The dry poultry manure was to be spread on land he owns on the lakeside of Hwy #21 in Ashfield. The lands are field tiled to improve drainage, and also contain the 18 Mile River, Boyd Creek, McNain Drain as well as Clark Creek on the Huron-Kinloss side of Hwy #86 above Point Clark. The owned land on the Ashfield side comes as close as approximately 6/10 km from the lake near Ashfield Beach.

Note: The Ashfield moratorium can't prevent a barn from being built in the neighbouring jurisdiction of Huron-Kinloss. It also doesn't restrict liquid manure from being imported into Ashfield, nor does it prevent the dry manure poultry barn from being built. However, Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council is taking what action it can. For example, it has since implemented a by-law requiring its approval for Nutrient management Plans (NMP) importing manure into our township, and has also submitted the poultry barn NMP for an independent expert review.

People from Huron-Kinloss quickly mobilized themselves into the Huron-Kinloss Coalition of Concerned Citizens. Actions included:

The resolution of the Geene proposal involves some important and even precedent-setting issues, and, as such, is as equally important to residents of Ashfield-Colborne as it is to those concerned in Huron-Kinloss. While residents of Ashfied-Colborne currently enjoy a moratorium, it will end just a short year away. As well, the lion's share of the manure in the original proposal was to be distributed in Ashfield, with the potential to directly impact residents of Ashfield Beach and Amberley Beach.

Some key questions at this point are:

The other question we hope you are asking is "How can I help?". There are a couple of ways.

  1. Contribute to help pay for the costs of mounting the legal challenge. Hiring a lawyer is expensive, and it is a little difficult to anticipate some of the different roadblocks and the exact end-point where all reasonable options have been exhausted. Some funding flexibility is required in order not to have to quit the fight prematurely. All contributions are appreciated. However, this kind of action will require a number of larger donations (example, around $200) from those willing and able to do so. There are no guarantees that a legal challenge will be successful, but it might work, and it is worth the try. Many people have already contributed, and your help is appreciated. The Huron-Kinloss Coalition of Concerned Citizens is still collecting to cover their costs. Cheques payable to "C.C.C. of H-K" can be deposited at any branch of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, Account # 2690-306434, or at the Toronto-Dominion Bank, Sutton Park Mall, 6665 Philip Place, Kincardine, On, N2Z 2E3. (2690 is the transit #. of the Kincardine branch).
  2. Put pressure on our Provincial politicians. (environmental assessment, deliver new farm legislation). Pressure your home MPP, the Premier, Helen Johns, and Ministers of Tourism, Agriculture, and Environment. Phone, write, and e-mail. (Use the blue pages in the phone book, or the web, www.gov.on.ca, to track down addressing/contact info).

Dumpsite Request

Please DO NOT put barbecue tanks in Lakefront garbage bins. There is a risk they could explode inside the truck when compacted, or if punctured by the bulldozer at the dump site. Take them to the landfill site where they will be stored safely.

MOE Spills Action Centre

Call 1-800-268-6060 or "MOE TIPS" 1-866-663-8477. Provide what, where, and observations on environmental impact (water impact gets higher attention).

Issued by ACLA.