05 Mar 14

Sometimes stuff happens

No one has a perfect record.  Everyone has some misdeed or mistake in the past.  That’s how people learn.  Good faith was the rule for many years, and paying attention to the near misses in the past were what kept us from worse repercussions in the future.  That being said, there have always been those that took advantage and have ruined the situation for everyone else.
Our local dairy processing plant is the most recent example of good faith and warnings being ignored in favour of immediate punitive charges.  It has recently come to the proverbial surface that something that seemed to be milk was discovered floating down the Castor River, back in 2012.  It is suspected that it was from a decades old underground piping system which was used to remove water used to clean the milk vats.  Why it decided to run free in 2012, and was not as diluted as other occasions is unknown.
Ironically, that line was supposed to have gone to a septic bed, and the cleaning agents and water were supposed to biodegrade there instead of the ‘scenic’ Castor.  Interestingly, since the new owners took control, all the waste water has been pumped and removed off site because of policy changes regarding the cleaning agents.  What is truly frustrating for the area though, is that a decision has been made to prosecute, and even though already corrected, may cost Russell and the surrounding area a beloved business.  Hope you’ve had your fill of Egg Nog!
We are better educated now, and we are highly vigilant to both the food safety aspects, and the environmental impacts of various industries.  We are aware that many pollutants are incremental and constant contaminators to the watershed, but also through scientific research and education we have learned that wastewater can be reused and recycled.  The reality is that we use non-potable water for many uses.  The other reality is that all the run off from our roads carries far more harmful chemicals from our car-dependent world into those same ditches and streams that feed the Castor.  That waste water certainly isn’t free running in the winter!
It seems to this writer that the punishment does not fit the alleged crime.  This is neither an environmental disaster, nor a confirmed case of intentional dumping.  It is a small processing plant, an integral contributor to the local agricultural sector, which has discovered by a reporting mechanism that something has gone wrong.  What needs to be done is due diligence.  What needed to be done was more monitoring to ensure it was not a regular occurrence.  What shouldn’t be done is damage to the Ontario economy by overzealous bureaucrats.
Learning from the past will ensure a smart, green and growing environment for future generations, preserve open space, and maintain our rich agricultural heritage.  Punitive and questionable legal processes are not helpful, and the burden of proof here falls to the victim business.  Even if they defend successfully, the result will be the death of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the loss of local jobs, product variety from our stores, markets for our farmers and options for the future.

Pamela J Pearson