The council chambers at Shire Hall were packed last Tuesday, as members of Save Picton Bay and their supporters appealed to council to support their cause and listen to their deputations
Speaking to the environmental impact of Picton Terminals, a deep water port operation located on the shoreline near White Chapel road was Victor Lind, a member of SPB. Brian Etherington, chair of SPB spoke to the legal proceedings that the group is involved in.
Relatively high levels of sodium chloride have been found in Picton Bay since approximately May 2015.
“According to Environment Canada’s toxicology lab, runoff water containing chlorides of 21,4000 mg/L would be acutely lethal and deleterious to fish and aquatic vertebrate,” states Lind, citing a report in which the aforementioned level of sodium chloride was found in Picton Bay.
Lind does not appear to be the only one concerned about the environmental ramifications of PT activities, as was evident both in his deputation and in published reports by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP).
“Based on ongoing monitoring results, levels of chloride continue to occur in surface water on Site and chlorides have been detected in the groundwater on Site and off Site, which have the potential to impair the quality to Picton Bay. These conditions are unlikely to change until salt is stored in such a way as to keep salt isolated from the natural environment and isolated from the elements such as rain and snow,” stated Provincial Officer Shannon Kelly in a report published by MECP.
On June 8, 2018 the Ontario Supreme Court released its decision that states the majority of the site occupied by Picton Terminals may continue to be used for storage and trans-shipment under legal non-conforming status.
This decision made by Judge Tausendfreund last year is felt to be incorrect by SPB and such is the basis of their appeal.
Since last summer, the Ministry has implemented an action plan with PT to mitigate the occurrence of sodium chloride leaching into the surrounding environment. This includes the completion of a dry storage shed to properly house salt.
According to the previously mentioned report, groundwater conditions at PT are unlikely to change until salt is stored in such a way as to keep it isolated from the environment.
As outlined in the report, the dry storage shed was to be completed by Fall 2019, however, PT also recently advised the Ministry that, “it is unknown at this time if PT plans to receive further shipment of salt throughout the summer or whether the Dry Structure Storage will be completed this fall.”
Apart from the environmental impact, David Sutherland spoke to the larger scope of concern for the group and a big reason why they went to council to have their concerns heard.
“Save Picton Bay feels what Picton Terminals is doing contravenes the current zoning by-law,” said Sutherland, “The bulk of the property where they’re carrying on port activities is zoned for mineral extraction which would not allow you to run a port however there has historically been a port there.”
In fact, the site has been home to industry since Bethlehem Steel took up shop there in the 1950s.
Sutherland concedes this point, but is careful to note that the issue is that the Judge did not put any restrictions on the nature of the operations.
“We felt that he erred in that area,” said Sutherland. “There is case law by the Supreme Court of Canada that says legal non-conforming is an entitlement but not an unconstrained entitlement and that’s the basis of our appeal.”
PT has presented ongoing environmental concerns over the years, having had what Sutherland terms as difficulty managing products on site.
“A couple years ago they had a large issue with Pet Coke. They brought some into the property but didn’t cover it properly and it blew all over the neighbour’s property. They were charged and plead guilty to improperly managing the Pet Coke,” he stated.
Like Lind, Sutherland also cites the issue of salt leeching into Picton Bay to be of grave concern.
“It’s impossible to guarantee the salt they’re storing doesn’t come into contact with water. It’s impossible to prevent salt coming into Picton Bay,” he added.
The new completion date for the Dry Storage Area is set for April 1, 2020, allowing for shipments of salt to continue throughout Fall 2019.