by SUSAN MANN
A Durham Region dairy farmer and the consultant he hired to complete a Nutrient Management Strategy were both fined after pleading guilty earlier this month in a Guelph court room to submitting false or misleading information in the strategy document.
The farmer, Alexander Muir of Elderslie Farm Holsteins located near Courtice in Durham Region, was fined $2,500 plus a 25 per cent victim surcharge and given three months to pay, while Robert Glover of Warkworth was fined $1,000 (plus a victim surcharge which made his total fine $1,130) and given 15 days to pay. He says he paid the fine on the day of the hearing. The case was heard Oct. 3 in the Ontario Court of Justice (West Region) in Guelph.
Ontario Environment Ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan says the farm is owned by Alexander Muir who is in general partnership in the farming business with a family member. That family member wasn’t charged in connection with this incident.
Alexander Muir couldn’t be reached for comment.
Jordan says Alexander Muir pleaded guilty to one offence under the Nutrient Management Act. Glover also pleaded guilty to one offence under the Act. The charge was providing false or misleading information in a nutrient management strategy document, she says.
In an Oct. 3 news release, the environment ministry says the company submitted a nutrient management strategy to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for approval. The strategy indicated that milk house wastewater was handled on site in a holding tank and septic bed and was in working order. The strategy was completed and submitted by Glover, the consultant hired by Muir.
Jordan says environment ministry staff investigated and determined the information was false and that the milk house wastewater discharged directly into a municipal ditch.
Nutrient management plans are submitted to and approved by the Ontario agriculture ministry, she says. But “it’s our responsibility to enforce it, which is why we laid charges.”
Glover says he was charged for “lack of due diligence.”
Glover says he went to the farm on September 16, 2010 to obtain information for the strategy, which was needed for a new heifer barn construction, including the farm’s handling of the milk house wastewater. “We stood right in their yard and they said to me that the milk house water is handled through a holding tank in a leaching bed.” Glover says he asked a series of questions, including where the leaching bed was located, if the system is working satisfactorily and how long it had been installed. He says he was told it had been installed eight to 10 years and the system was working satisfactorily.
“I had no reason to doubt them,” he says. “How do you find out anyway? Do you start digging with a backhoe?”
Glover had one of the Muirs sign the required forms for the strategy (before he filled in the information) and told them he’d take the forms home, fill all of the information in and submit it to the agriculture ministry. Glover says “I was fined because I did not give them a chance to read it (the strategy) before I sent it in.”
Glover is listed on the agriculture ministry’s website as having received an Agricultural Operation Strategy/Plan Development certificate from the ministry and has been certified to prepare nutrient management strategies and plans. As for what happens to Glover’s agriculture ministry certification, Ontario agriculture ministry spokesperson Elizabeth McClung says by email a director under the Nutrient Management Act reviewed the facts of the case and Glover’s “license remains valid.” BF