Millions of Acres Lost

In a November 2014 Ontario Farmer article by Alex Binkley, we read that almost 2.5  million acres of prime farmland (Class 1) went out of food production across Canada between 2001 and 2011.

The agri-food sector currently generates $34 billion a year in gross domestic product (GDP) and sustains 740,000 jobs – about one in every nine jobs across the province.  Over the past decade, even when other parts of Ontario’s economy experienced a downturn, Ontario’s agri-food sector has registered growth, at an average of about one per cent a year.

Only .5% of the land in Canada is comprised of prime farmland (Class 1) and 50% of that is located in Southern Ontario. But statistics show that in Ontario alone we are losing approximately 350 acres of farmland per day.

To put that into perspective;

• 350 acres of barley can produce 346,791 cases of beer

• 1 acre of land can feed one person for a year

• by the time a child turns one, 130,000 acres of farmland in Ontario will have been lost to development

Support NDACT in protecting our rare and non-renewable prime farmland.   Our politicians need to see that this is an important issue for Ontarians.  Take the Food and Water First pledge http://foodandwaterfirst.com/pledge/

Karren Wallace

Published in the Orangeville Citizen, Feb. 11, 2015

January 2015 Food & Water First Update

Happy Food&WaterFirst New Year!

fwf-copyright-logo-150

While we didn’t have a thick white blanket for Christmas, it thankfully came soon after. That isn’t a welcomed arrival for many people, but some of us get comfort from that muffled crunch that boots on snow can make. It’s very much a familiar noise from happy winters past.  As an insulator, snow plays a valuable role in the seasonal cycle. It protects the soil from the harshest temperatures and supports rest and regeneration before the next growing season.

This is the International Year of Soils according to the UN. Just in time one would think, as soil is taking a beating all over the planet. There are a number of compelling YouTube videos on the subject. They tell about its critical importance, and also how soil has been neglected and depleted globally.  We’ve been treating soil like dirt so to speak and yet it cradles and cleans our water and grows our food.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will spend the next year focusing on the world's soils, and bringing attention to this resource that sustains all of us. As with farmland, once soil is gone, in many cases it’s gone for good. Self-restoration can take hundreds or thousands of years if possible at all given the many layers (soil horizons) beneath it that support its growth and health.  A sobering fact from the Ministry of Agriculture (2013) is that Ontario exports 11 billion in agricultural products, but imports 21 billion. That’s my response to those who go for long drives and see many kilometers of lovely farmland and soil and assume everything’s just great. Those aren’t numbers that indicate self-sustainment. This New Year is showing many positive signs though and those statistics can get turned around. There are more and more campaigns that are focusing on protection of the fundamentals of life and there is so much to feel optimistic about.

Read more...

Orangeville Dinner Series Returns

dinner-series
Bill Tremblay
Adam Ryan is one of several chefs taking part in the Orangeville Dinner Series – a fundraiser for Food and Water First.

Orangeville’s Dinner Series is returning, this time in an attempt to squash opposition to prime farmland.

Throughout the year, local chefs have united through the dinner series to help a local cause.

This time around, Food And Water First — a Dufferin County-based farmland advocacy group – will benefit from the chefs’ efforts.

“It keeps the theme of using the farmers that we use,” said chef Adam Ryan.

Read more.

By Bill Tremblay

Published in the Orangeville Banner, Nov. 10, 2014

Turbine Transmission Lines Revised due to Possible Groundwater Contamination

Dufferin Wind Power Inc.’s remedial utility pole sealing plan got off to a sluggish start.

Faced with delays in sealing more than 300 utility pole foundations to guard against the possibility for groundwater contamination in Melancthon and Amaranth, Dufferin Wind missed the initial Sept. 15 deadline imposed by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).

Although Dufferin Wind has been granted more time, a memo written to municipal officials by Gary Tomlinson, senior environmental officer with the MOE, stresses the need to get the work done as quickly as possible.

“Everybody recognizes the necessity of getting this project completed before the onset of the seriously rainy fall weather,” he wrote, expecting it will take until at least mid-October to complete the remedial work.

According to Dufferin Wind spokesperson Connie Roberts, more than 70 per cent of the work has been completed. The expectation is that it will be done by the end of the month, she added.  

“However, at this point, I have stressed to everyone involved that getting the process and required work done right is more important than meeting an arbitrary deadline,” Tomlinson added.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) approved Dufferin Wind’s plan to construct a 230 kV transmission line from its 49-turbine wind farm in Melancthon to Amaranth last year.

Earlier this summer, the MOE asked Dufferin Wind to revise those plans after a local resident argued some of its utility pole foundations could act as conduits for surface water pollutants to enter the groundwater supply.

“We’re at the headwaters and if there is a potential that we are going to pollute the water stream, then obviously that concerns me,” said Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill. “That affects an awful lot of people from a broader area beyond Melancthon.”

When asked to comment on the specifics of the sealing program, Dufferin Wind officials referred The Banner onto the MOE. While it considers the potential for water contamination to be low, the MOE has acknowledged it as a possibility.  

That’s because the retaining structures, or caissons, used by Dufferin Wind lend to the accumulation of surface water in and around the bases of the utility poles.

Dufferin Wind has agreed to address the possibility these caissons could transfer surface pollutants, such as fertilizers, into the bedrock in the event of heavy rain run-off or flooding.

“The ministry has found no evidence to suggest that negative impacts to the local potable water aquifer are occurring,” MOE spokesperson Kate Jordan said in an email. “The ministry believes the (sealing) program to be an effective mitigation method going forward.”

The work consists of installing a benonite clay seal both inside and outside of caissons. Getting the materials into Canada was difficult though, according to Tomlinson.

The only North American supplier of the type of clay required to provide a proper groundwater barrier is locared in Wyoming. There was an additional delay getting the benonite clay across the border as well.

“I can’t claim to understand what the holdup was with the Canadian Border Services Agency, but the crossing didn’t go smoothly or quickly,” Tomlinson noted.

Other factors contributing to delays included difficulties finding a contractor on short notice, as well as vandalism. Copper has been stripped from some of Dufferin Wind’s utility poles, Jordan explained.

“Based on what we’ve been told by the ministry, it was not an intention delay,” Hill said. “It was circumstances beyond their control.”

While the MOE is satisfied by the measures taken, Hill isn’t brimming with confidence. Since the transmission line runs through its abandoned rail lands, he said county officials are keeping a close eye on the situation.

“I’m not sure (the MOE) are keeping as close an eye on it as I’d like to see,” Hill said, who has written to the ministry several times. “I want some assurances that the ministry has the resources to monitor this.”

Another concern raised by local municipalities is Dufferin Wind’s use of pentachlorophenol (penta). The entire lengths, as opposed to only the bottom, of the poles have been treated with the wood preservative, Hill argued.

“The stuff is on the outside of the entire height of the pole, then obviously that can seep down,” he said. “It is an added concern for possible pollution.”

MOE officials aren’t worried though. Jordan said Health Canada and Environment Canada have both approved the use of penta as a wood preservative on utility poles.

“Penta treated poles stuck in the ground and exposed to groundwater ... do not present any particular hazard to the natural environment,” she said. “The ministry has no concerns with the entire length of the poles being treated with penta.”

By Chris Halliday

Published in the Orangeville Banner, Oct. 8, 2014

 

A major part of this transmission line is built on former rail lines, drilling through the aquifer of Brownfields.

Brownfields are vacant or underused sites with potential for redevelopment. They may be contaminated, often due to former industrial or commercial use. Brownfields are found in all types of communities across the province.

In the last century, many industries operated within the city core and along waterways. Some of these industries included mills, factories, railway yards and service stations. Many have since closed or moved away. The lands left behind – brownfields – lie idle and often are contaminated.

Excerpt from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website

Ministry of the Environment asks Dufferin Wind to guard against ‘potential’ water threat

The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is asking Dufferin Wind Power to seal the foundations of more than 300 utility poles to guard against possible groundwater contamination in Melancthon and Amaranth.

Read more.