March 18, 1999

On March 5th, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MoE) released a Media Backgrounder announcing the MoE's renewal of Atlantic Packaging's controversial paper sludge spreading program. A recently-obtained copy of the renewed Certificate of Approval (CofA) issued by the MoE reveals a number of false and misleading statements:

The Media Backgrounder indicates that the new CofA will allow paper sludge to be spread on agricultural land in Durham County@. In fact, the CofA permits sludge to be spread on numerous sites in municipalities throughout Durham Region, Victoria County and Niagara Region. The MOE intended to keep the list of recipient sites a secret, but inadvertently released it as a result of a clerical error.

The Media Backgrounder states that a recent MoE Study Ashowed benefits to soybean crops following the application of sludge. What the Backgrounder doesn't say is that this MoE Study examined the effect of sludge spreading on wheat and tomato crops as well, and that crop yields for both dropped after sludge application. The Study recommended that sludge not be applied on these crops. Notwithstanding this, the new CofA permits spreading on all types of agricultural crops.

The Media Backgrounder states that the sludge spreading program has been successful with respect to environmental protection, soil amendments ... and community acceptance.  This is false and misleading. Despite over seven years of spreading sludge on agricultural land, no agricultural benefit has been shown. And public opposition to the program has steadily increased. Even municipal governments are fed up: Manvers Township recently passed a Council Resolution and wrote to the MoE to request that no further sludge spreading be allowed in the Township. Despite this, sludge sites in Manvers were renewed under the new CofA. Moreover, the MoE has taken away the ability of municipal governments to prevent sludge from being spread on lands in their municipalities. (Under the previous CofA, sludge spreading on farms in a municipality required the approval of municipal council. This requirement has been eliminated from the new CofA.)

AThe MoE has approved a program that at best does nothing for the environment or agriculture, and at worst damages certain crops. Why is the MoE ignoring its own studies?, said Don Whitcombe, Chair of the Brock Land Stewards.  This is just big central government trampling the rights of local governments to decide what's best, said Maureen Reilly, Researcher for the Brock Land Stewards.

What's completely inexcusable is the provincial government's efforts to hide which municipalities will receive sludge. Who is benefiting from this process of deception?, added Mr. Whitcombe.

For further information, contact:
Maureen Reilly, Research, Brock Land Stewards B (705) 438-1456 or (416) 922-4099