Dumping dirt: Excess soil turns up on farmland

Chatsworth Township producer encouraged municipality to pass site alteration bylaw

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer
Better Farming

Many rural Ontario municipalities have struggled to deal with soil dumping operations. In the process, some residents have diligently tackled this problem and encouraged change in their regions.

Pat Cardoza, a beef farmer in Holland Centre, is one such individual.

Cardoza’s frustrations began in 2015, when trucks hauled soil to a 100-acre property across the road from her home in Chatsworth Township every day. Her neighbour arranged to receive 5,000 truckloads of materials at the site, staff at the municipal office said.

“The operation was immediately in front of our residence,” Cardoza said. “We were getting the brunt of it.”

The traffic disturbed many local residents, causing loud noises and stirring up clouds of dust.

The trucks “were making a terrible mess of the roads,” she said.

Rural residents regularly informed the Chatsworth Township council of their concerns.

Unfortunately, the township decided it would not pursue a site alteration bylaw, as “it would impact farmers too much,” Cardoza said.

She felt discouraged by the township’s decision. “We (realized) that we would just have to allow the 5,000 loads to come,” she said.

While the number of deliveries tapered off in 2017, the high levels of traffic resumed in mid-April of this year, she said.

“The trucks were coming with more enthusiasm than before,” she said, noting that about 100 large trucks drove onto the site each day.

“They regularly arrived at the property at 5 a.m.,” she said. “We saw some deliveries come in at 3 a.m., too.”

Soon after, she discovered that the landowner planned to bring in a total of 200,000 loads of fill, including the 5,000 already dumped, Cardoza told Better Farming.

    Chaiyaporn1144/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Through discussions with the Ministry of the Environment and the municipal office, Cardoza found that the parties involved with the site may not have conducted any soil tests, she said.

“It was making us very nervous,” she said. “The site was adjacent to an environmentally protected area.”

In the spring, the deputy mayor visited Cardoza to see the site operations first hand.

“He saw the truck traffic and (related) issues,” Cardoza said. “He realized the (township) needed to do something. The ball began to roll.”

Shortly after the deputy mayor’s visit, the municipality received a request in May from a landowner to start a similar operation in Chatsworth. Council and staff became increasingly concerned about the issue of soil dumping, Cardoza said.

“A lot of things began to scare the municipal office,” she said. “They decided they needed to take action.”

On June 6, Cardoza and other neighbours attended a council meeting to express their concerns again.

“We spoke to the councillors about the effects this operation was having on our lifestyle, our concerns about traffic safety and our questions about the (quality) of the soil,” Cardoza said.

That evening, the Chatsworth council passed a site alteration bylaw.

The following day, Cardoza’s neighbour received a stop work order from the municipal government. Local residents have not observed any more soil deliveries at the site since, she said.

News of the township’s actions spread quickly to surrounding areas.

In fact, Georgian Bluffs, a neighbouring township, reviewed its rules surrounding site alteration about experiences in Chatsworth and speaking with the township’s operations manager, Cardoza said. BF

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