OMYA appeals Tay River decision
Ottawa Citizen, March 21, 2002
Water ruling disappoints OMYA boss
Ottawa Citizen, February 22, 2002
OMYA's victory watered down
Ottawa Citizen, February 21, 2002
Download the Environmental Review Tribunal's Decision
Issued February 20, 2002
.pdf file, 85 pages
Tay River decision months away
Tribunal to decide if OMYA's permit to take water is valid
Ottawa Citizen, November 1, 2001
Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario
Oct. 31, 2001
Stage set for water usage dispute
Ottawa Citizen, October 8, 2001
Eyes on Watershed
Editorial, Perth Courier, August 29, 2001
The wellspring of life, or just a commodity
Article, Ottawa Citizen, August 16, 2001
OMYA'S designs on Ontario water raise concerns
Rutland Herald, July 23, 2001
Articles from the Ottawa Citizen
Biologists not sold on OMYA plan
July 28, 2001
'One cannot remove volumes of water ... and not expect negative effects' expect negative effects'
Tay water deal 'premature'
July 26, 2001
Not enough known about watershed to give OMYA licence to remove water, federal official says
Federal officials review Tay
July 9, 2001
River permit Biologists measure impact to fish in watershed
The Environment Review Tribunal issued its decision on the scope of the OMYA hearing on Wednesday, May 2, 2001--Download .pdf file and read the Tribunal's decision
Canadian couple take on OMYA in Ontario
April 23, 2001
By BRUCE EDWARDS
April 14, 2001,
The Toronto Star
Perth plant and political hypocrisy
A Swiss-owned plant just outside of Perth is poised to become the biggest producer of calcium carbonate in North America. But will that be good for Perth and the northern half of Lanark County? Or could it have bad side effects? And if there could be bad side effects, is there a way they could be eliminated? Or at least made bearable?
Incredible as this may sound, the Ontario government doesn't wantto know. It is trying to block such questions from being asked at a hearing to consider the expansion. Instead, it wants to limit the focus of the inquiry strictly to environmental issues.
These issues, though narrow, are important because the company, OMYA (Canada) Inc., wants a permit from the Ministry of the Environment to remove 4.5 million litres a day of water from the Tay River, a modest watercourse that feeds into the Rideau Canal system.
But there are wider issues at stake, and the province doesn't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole, even though its own Statement of Environmental Values, adopted by the Ministry of the Environment in 1995, makes a big thing about taking a comprehensive, integrated approach to decision making. The statement says:
``When making decisions, the ministry will consider: the cumulative effects on the environment; the interdependence of air, land, water and living organisms; and the interrelations among the environment, the economy and society.''
A permit to remove 4.5 million litres of water a day from the river would increase the amount used in the plant by five times. That would allow production at the plant to increase four to six times and, in turn, would allow OMYA's quarry, 30 kilometres north of the plant, to increase shipments of calcium carbonate to the plant by four times - up to 4 million tonnes a year.
Local residents estimate thatmoving this amount of material would require a truck travelling from the quarry to the plant about every three minutes - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long. And there would be similar traffic of empty trucks returning to the quarry.
There are multiple uses for calcium carbonate. When ground to a fine white powder, it is used in paint, pharmaceuticals, plastic, and building materials. When mixed with water to form a slurry, it is used in the pulp and paper industry to reduce or eliminate the use of chlorine or titanium oxide. It also reduces the amount of pulp needed to make paper by about 30 per cent.
Last August the environment ministry granted OMYA a permit to take water from the river. The residents, however, sought leave to appeal and in November the Environmental Review Tribunal granted leave. The appeal will be heard in June. But in the meantime, the ministry and the company brought motions to strike out all grounds of appeal that went beyond narrow environmental issues. A judgment on the motions will be delivered at the end of this month.
If successful, the appeal hearing will be barred from looking at the cumulative impact of huge expansions in the plant and quarry operations, and its effect on the community, roads, traffic, local aboriginal people, noise, air quality and the quality of life in general.
The ministry is relying on a technical legal argument to achieve this goal. It is saying that before such a broad look at impacts can be taken, the Statement of Environmental Values has to be specifically incorporated into legislation. And in the case of legislation governing water permits, it has not been incorporated.
Regardless of whether this is a sound legal argument, there's a large measure of political hypocrisy here that allows government members at Queen's Park to preen themselves by claiming the Statement of Environmental Values proves they care about sustainability, while at the same time they countenance efforts to ensure that the statement is not applied.
I find that cynical and sanctimonious.
Cameron Smith is an author and environmentalist living in Lansdowne, Ont.
The Ottawa Citizen
April 4, 2001
OMYA's use of water not export: lawyers
The Ottawa Citizen
April 3, 2001
Tay River permit could open NAFTA floodgate
The Perth Courier
March 14, 2001
Hearing for OMYA delayed further
Panel could meet as late as June
By Gena Gibson
The appeal hearing for OMYA (Canada) Inc.s water-taking permit has again been delayed this time until late June.
The tribunal from the Environmental Appeals Board met in Perth on March 5 and 6 to listen to arguments from OMYAs lawyers. The lawyers brought forward motions to quash the appeals and establish the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The panel also dealt with procedural matters and the rights of two people who applied to become parties later in the process.
Appellant Carol Dillon of Bathurst Burgess Sherbrooke township said last week involved two long days of legal wrangling.
The citizen appellants were scratching their heads most of the time, she admitted. We spoke when asked to, but it was mostly presentations by the two lawyers (for OMYA and the Ministry of Environment).
This process is like trying to figure out the rules before we start the game, and while it is onerous, it is very necessary to ensure a fair hearing later on.
OMYA administrator Ray McCarthy was unavailable for comment.
The appellants have been given the chance to respond to OMYAs arguments when the tribunal members return to the county building April 2 and 3. The actual hearing is now set to take place from June 25 to July 6.
Ms. Dillon said frustration has surfaced over the lengthy process. However, she said tribunal vice-chair Pauline Browse pointed out the importance of this hearing and the need to do it right.
In the five years of (the Environmental Bill of Rights) existence, this is only the third time citizens have been able to get to the hearing stage, Ms. Dillon explained. Thus, the rules of the games have only been used twice before and are still being figured out.
Because an appeal hearing is a rarity, Ms. Dillon said precedents would be set and used in other hearings.
For that reason, the vice-chair is being very particular about the rules and procedures and making sure everything is not only done right, but where the rules are fuzzy, that she has full understanding so that her interpretations of them will stand scrutiny by many over time, she said.
The constitutional rights brought up by the Council of Canadians offers another reason for the delay. The concern about the export of water and its implications under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as well as the failure to consult First Nations people about the water-taking permit, means the attorneys-general of Ontario and Canada must be contacted for their comments about constitutional rights.
Let me just comment that it is all much more complicated and important than any of us thought, but we have not lost sight of our original objective: to get the best decision possible for the Tay River watershed, Ms. Dillon stressed.
Ms. Dillon and her husband join seven other appellants, including the Council of Canadians, in objecting to the water-taking permit approved by the provincial environment ministry last August. The permit would allow OMYA to install a pumping station at the Tay River and take almost 1.5 million litres a day until 2004, with 4.5 million litres coming out of the Tay each day by 2010.
The Perth Courier
(From March 7, 2001 Edition)
Council of Canadians brings water, environmental issues to public
Citizens' group concerned about permit granted to OMYA by MOE
By Stephanie Strachan
Water export and environmental issues topped the list of concerns during a public forum hosted by the Council of Canadians last Tuesday night.
Well over 100 people packed the upstairs room at the Perth library to hear and question a panel of speakers regarding the approval of a water-taking permit to OMYA (Canada) Inc. near Glen Tay.
The Council of Canadians is an independent, non-partisan citizens interest group which deals with national issues, such as the export of fresh water.
The council is one of eight organizations and individuals appealing the provincial Ministry of Environments approval of the permit, which would see 1.5 million litres removed from the Tay each day (and, ultimately, 4.5 million litres per day).
The Environmental Appeal Board has been hearing jurisdictional arguments this week, with the hearing slated to begin April 30 and run until May 4 at the county administration building on Sunset Boulevard.
The councils water campaigner, Jamie Dunn, focused on the water export issue. He said there are loopholes in the North American Free Trade Agreement which place water resources in jeopardy and create major liability concerns.
Under NAFTA, he explained, U.S.-based companies (OMYA has headquarters in Vermont) are entitled to make a profit on their investments, which means they can sue the government if their ability to make a profit is hindered. A company can sue for its investment, as well as for lost profits in perpetuity.
It seems like the government has signed away our rights, Mr. Dunn said. Theres a limited amount of water in watersheds and communities have to make decisions about what kind of industries to allow in.
Steven Shrybman, a trade and environmental lawyer, criticized the Ontario governments poor record of protecting the environment and water resources.
He read from the Ontario Commissioner of Environments report, which addresses inconsistencies in water-taking permits. He explained there is no central registry for approved permits, which means in some watersheds in Ontario the approved amount of water taking exceeds the volume of water in the watershed.
Mr. Shrybman said he doesnt believe MOE knows how much has been approved in total for the Tay watershed, adding the province is not showing regard for the impact of water taken within an ecosystem.
Carol Dillon, a Glen Tay resident on the panel, expressed concern about the amount of water in the Tay.
She said the ministry received an unprecedented 283 letters regarding this permit, and stressed the appeal is not against OMYA, but against the environment ministrys decision. Most of all we dont think they have enough information.
Its a faulty document and a faulty decision....We are looking for a good decision that will give us confidence in the years to come.
Michael Cassidy, a Tatlock resident, was also part of the panel. His concerns centred around the county-wide costs of awarding the permit to OMYA. As production increases, he said, roads will deteriorate, resulting in decreased property values for affected residents and increased taxes in other parts of the county to offset that effect.
Jim Ronson of the Perth Community Association expressed concerns regarding river flow, bacterial counts and increased pressure on the river with forecasted new housing starts. He questioned OMYAs willingness to suspend production when flow is low.
He noted Perths public utilities and the town council have requested written proof from MOE that the towns water supply would not be affected by this permit.
Several attendees asked questions during the forum.
After outlining the issues, the panellists urged people to get involved by attending the hearing, joining one of the action groups that have standing at the hearings (such as the Perth Community Association) or talking to political representatives.
On May 1 the Environmental Appeal Board is slated to hold a public meeting, giving everyone an opportunity to get their comments on the official record. The council urged local residents to attend.
Its your community and your economy and you should have a say, said Mr. Dunn.
Concerned citizens plan opposition to Tay River Water Withdrawal
Letter from Canadian Citizen
July 15, 2000, Ottawa Sun
River of contention
By Tom Van Dusen
PERTH -- Olivier Chatillon flips open the cover of the freshly-minted report Existing Conditions and Trends in the Tay River Watershed and points proudly to the acknowledgements section.
Right there in black and white, among those thanked for their "generous additional financial contributions" to the development of the Tay River Watershed Plan, is OMYA (Canada) Inc., the privately-owned international calcium carbonate processor.
This spring, OMYA's Ministry of Environment application to pull a maximum 3,000 litres per minute from the Tay for the next 10 years worried conservationists, who felt the river -- which extends 95 km from Bob's Lake to the Rideau River -- couldn't stand the pressure.
But it seems obvious to Chatillon, the processor's Perth vice-president and general manager, that if OMYA is the Tay River bad guy, the company wouldn't be sinking $85,000 into an environmental protection-focused watershed plan.
"Why would we do something that could come back in our face like a boomerang?"
Perhaps no other single user of the Tay, he says, has as much interest in the river's long-term health.
While 3,000 litres a minute might sound like a lot, Chatillon insists it must be put into context.
The per-minute volume of the river can range from about 420,000 litres to a high of 1.5 million; and at OMYA's recommendation, a restriction has been included that no water will be extracted if the flow falls below 30,000 litres.
At that point, OMYA would revert to the seven wells just west of here it is permitted to pull 600 litres per minute from.
It's not that the Tay River Watershed Plan committee -- which co-ordinated production of the new report -- was necessarily insisting on no extraction at all; the point is, said vice-chair David Taylor, nobody has sufficient information to determine the long-term impact of the plan.
Taylor and his colleagues are waiting just as anxiously as OMYA to see how the Ministry will handle the dilemma.
A decision is still at least two weeks away.
"Some of the more contentious applications take longer to resolve," said Clyde Hammond, Kingston-based supervisor for the Ministry's water resources unit.
In the interim, OMYA has been trying to enhance its image as a protector of water resources in general and the Tay River in particular.
For the past several years, a multi-million dollar expansion has taken mineral processing at OMYA out of the dark ages, both technically and environmentally.
It's now an entirely enclosed facility with a direct and indirect financial impact on the Perth area of about $20 million a year, Chatillon boasts.
Perhaps the greatest value, says former reeve Bryce Bell, is the 130 mostly high-end jobs -- $45,000-$55,000 a year -- provided in one of Ontario's most depressed communities.
Bell, who's now on the company payroll 2 1/2 days a week working on community relations, suggests much of the opposition to OMYA's Tay extraction request comes from people who enjoy the luxury of not having to earn a living in the area.
August 29, 2000, The Ottawa Citizen
Water-taking permit will serve our business and community
by Olivier Chatillon
OMYA (Canada) Inc. applied earlier this year to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for a water-taking permit that would allow us to build a long-term water pumping station on the Tay River. After public consultations, professional studies and a rigorous government review, our application has been approved.
OMYA is a calcium carbonate crushing facility and water is an essential element in the production of some of our product. Increased demands from our customers means increased activity at the plant and a greater need for water.
We are proud members of the community. Informing our neighbours of our plan is essential to our philosophy as a company. Simply put, we believe if it does not benefit our neighbours as well as OMYA, it is not in our plan.
Throughout the application process, OMYA carefully considered and responded to concerns raised by individuals and organizations. As a result, our permit includes the following conditions:
- OMYA will monitor and record river flows by installing a new gauge at or near the intake site, and will provide this data to the MOE and other authorized agencies upon request;
- OMYA will cease all pumping if the river flow at the intake location goes below one cubic metre/second;
- OMYA will retain the services of a qualified ecological consultant to assess the river habitat during low-flow periods;
- OMYA will assist with the establishment and operation of a river management program that will maintain water flow during low-flow periods.
The long-term permit allows a maximum of 3,125 litres per minute to be taken from the Tay River. Compare this with the river's flow of 450,000 litres to 1.5 million litres per minute. You can see that OMYA's share is minimal and will have little effect on the river's upstream watershed and lakes.
We have also invested $85,000 in an environmental protection plan to ensure the river's healthy future for all of us in this community.
We will do everything we can to preserve and protect the environment.
We believe this permit will allow us to better run our business and thus better serve the community. We not only work in the community, we live here too. Of our 140 employees, 125 are local residents. OMYA is a major financial force, contributing more than $20 million to the region this past year. That amount will only grow as the company continues to expand and provide good paying jobs for more people.
Our determination to give back to the community was recognized in 1998 when OMYA Canada received the Business Achievement Award from the Perth Chamber of Commerce. The plaque celebrates our entrepreneurial spirit and our commitment to the community and our shared environment. We proudly display this award in the front lobby of our administration building for everyone to see.
Vice-President and General Manager OMYA (Canada) Inc.
11/20/2000: OMYA faces opposition in Canada Rutland Herald