A Washago resident claims "contaminated soil is being dumped" in the Black River and he fears that will negatively impact the local watershed and, ultimately, residents' drinking water.
Maurice McMillan, a former Orillia city councillor, says old gas station fuels are being "rolled into the ground" at what he calls a soil dumping site located at 7406 Concession Road B-C in Ramara Township.
“Not as many residents know about this as they should,” McMillan said. “It’s under reported and it’s been sliding under the radar.”
McMillan worries the "dumping site" could contaminate Ramara’s lakes and rivers, which would result in a "devastating blow" to tourism and local cottagers.
“It is potentially damaging our environment forever,” he warned. “People all the way down to Severn use the river water for household usage, so if it gets away, we are going to have a real problem.”
According to the Township of Ramara’s chief administrative officer, Zach Drinkwalter, the site, owned by NRK Holdings Inc., is a "mixed-use" site that includes a quarry and a soil bio-remediation facility. He says it is closely monitored by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks.
The site was created after an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), which is now referred to as the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), where they ruled in their favour in 2014. They opened the site in 2022.
“The Township of Ramara is not aware of any damage to the environment,” Drinkwalter said in a statement to OrilliaMatters. “The operators of the facility and the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks monitor this site.”
Township of Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke says he was originally against bringing the quarry and soil bio-remediation facility to Ramara in 2014 when he served as deputy mayor.
“Their site was approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and we still refused it because it didn’t meet our stricter regulations,” he explained. “Now they have conformed to what we have put in place and they are up and running.”
Clarke says the site can only use hydrocarbon soil that meets safety standards.
“We withheld them from opening for at least another year until they complied with our rules when it comes to quarry runoff from the site,” he said. “Stormwater run-off was a hiccup we had; we wanted a larger pond.”
Clarke says no water leaves the site as it’s self-contained. According to Clarke, he’s been told by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources that the site poses no harm to the local environment.
According to Clarke, the site is clay lined and clear-stoned. Pipes inside the clear stone, which are protected by a rubber membrane, "trap water between the lay line and clear stone and then drain it to a stormwater pond."
The water is then re-used for the treatment of the soil and is analyzed continuously, Clarke says. The pond flows water into a second pond that is used for the quarry site.
“They have complied with all the rules, it’s certainly not an illegal site, and they aren’t dumping anything in the Black River," Clarke said.
Clarke says local citizens should have no concerns about the township's watershed or drinking water. If residents suspect illegal soil dumping or have any further concerns, they should contact bylaw enforcement.