St. Clair Region Conservation Authority is voicing its concerns about piles of commercial fertilizer made from human waste in Lambton County.
Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Dawn-Euphemia are all facing a legal hearing brought by Lasalle Agri to the Normal Farm Practices Protection Board. The action challenges zoning bylaw which all three municipalities have passed limiting the amount of fertilizer stored on a farm property. Farmers can only store as much as they need for their field.
Dawn-Euphemia and Brooke-Alvinston both asked the company to move piles of the product saying they were too large. Neighbours in Dawn-Euphemia also voiced concern that the biosolids pile on Hale School Road was too close to Longs Creek and could cause problems with the water.
Lasalle Agri has always contended the commercial fertilizer which comes from human waste will be used on their property and not sold commercially.
Conservation authority staff has examined the fertilizer piles in question and General Manager Brian McDougall says had the company asked for a permit to put the fertilizer there, it would likely have been granted under the current rules. But McDougall is still concerned about the biomass fertilizer.
“We have significant concerns especially looking at run off and water quality downstream.”
But McDougall says the upper levels of government regulate that. If the fertilizer would run off into a stream and kill wildlife, McDougall says it would be the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s job to deal with it. The federal ministry of agriculture also regulates the fertilizer.
“We’re dealing with two different ministries here and we are not getting a full answer,” he says.
But Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad says municipal leaders and the conservation authority should be trying to have the biomass fertilizer delisted as a commercial product so it would face more stringent guidelines.
“Everyone is trying to wash their hands of it,” says Broad. “Until we get the commercial fertilizer designation off of it, we have a problem.”
The conservation authority will write to the federal and provincial authorities outlining their concerns about the product.
Meantime, Roger Buurma, one of the principals of LaSalle Agri is taking issue with the characterization of what the company is doing.
Buurma called The Independent and pointed to a recent article in newspaper about the Normal Farm Practices hearing which said the land near Watford’s two cemeteries could be used to store biomass fertilizer.
Drawings of the field were included in the package to the board which appeared on the public agenda of Warwick Council. Mayor Jackie Rombouts voiced concern about the possibility the company would place the fertilizer, which can have a very strong odour, near a cemetery.
Buurma told The Independent the article gave the impression there would be a storage area on the land when the family and the company only wanted to store biosolid fertilizer there temporarily. Until November 2019, the company had a large storage facility at the corner of Nauvoo Road and the Highway 402 exchange. It was removed after Warwick Township took the company to court for bylaw violations. The township said the company was operating a commercial operation on land zoned for agriculture.
Buurma added Lasalle Agri’s product would not be placed on the field this year. It is normally used after wheat is harvested in July or August however the wheat on that field, he said, is dead.
Buurma accused The Independent of “drumming up” anger in the community against the company and unfairly characterizing what the hearing was about.
When asked several times if Buurma had read the articles he was referring to, which outlined the company’s objections, he did not answer directly.
“People will find out that you have reported inaccurately because you are misleading them,” says Buurma.