Huntsville’s response to Solar Farm plastic garbage in drainage ditch; ‘Not our jurisdiction’

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Agatha Farmer

HUNTSVILLE - On the morning of Nov. 28 Domtar Road drainage ditches in Huntsville were littered with a twin size mattress, plastic, large steel jacks, and other items of garbage along both sides of the road.

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The most shocking picture, however, shows construction remnants and a number of plastic straps tossed in a ditch just outside a solar farm. The farm is under construction and while green energy might soon be flowing from the location so it seems is the company’s garbage into the town’s water filled ditches.

According to the above picture the same green plastic straps found in the ditch are visible on materials inside the fenced in property.

Muskoka Post asked the Town of Huntsville who oversees the site and who might be responsible for the clean up.

Interim Mayor Karin Terziano said as far as she

can find out solar farms are not accountable to the town unless panels are on buildings.

“The only license we ever issued was for 555 Domtar Road. That is no longer under us though,” she said.

Since the town issued a license for the solar farm Muskoka Post was curious whose jurisdiction this project now fell under.

Terziano went back to clarify and sent us the following comment.

“When the Green Energy Act (GEA) was in effect the Town issued multiple resolutions in support of IESO FIT applications. One of those applications was for 555 Domtar Road from an applicant called One Point Twenty One Gigawatts Inc.,” she wrote.

On Sept. 28, 2015 Huntsville council passed a resolution in support of the project.

One Point Twenty One Gigawatts Inc. proposed to construct and operate a Groundmount Solar Project on 555 Domtar under the Province’s FIT Program.

The resolution's sole purpose was to enable the company to receive Priority Points under the FIT Program. According to a town report applications whose projects receive formal support of local municipalities are awarded Priority Points, which may result in the applicant being offered a FIT contract prior to others applying for FIT contracts.

The Feed-In Tariff (FIT) Program was developed to encourage and promote greater use of renewable energy sources including on-shore wind, waterpower, renewable biomass, biogas, landfill gas and solar for electricity generating projects in Ontario.

Terziano said that as “the GEA is no longer in effect, I don't know whether we have anything more to do with them.  Don't think its District jurisdiction but not sure whose it is.”

So neither the Huntsville mayor nor staff, who advised her on the comment, have any idea whose jurisdiction a solar farm within their own municipality, being built under their town licenses belongs to. Where is the environmental and general oversight?

We asked Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks if perhaps it was their jurisdiction since the town it’s in has no idea.

Gary Wheeler, MCEP media relations, said the ministry takes all threats to the natural environment very seriously.

“Debris and litter onsite would be addressed under the Town of Huntsville Clean Yards By-law. Under the by-law, the owner, lessee or occupant is responsible to clean up the materials that are located on their site.

Any litter or debris on municipal lands (which would include drainage ditches) would be the responsibility of the town or District of Muskoka to remove and keep clean.

In addition to any possible involvement by the municipality and the district, ministry staff are also reaching out to the Solar farm developer to ask them to clean up the site.

Please contact the district and municipality for any information about their respective roles. The ministry will continue to be involved as necessary.”

It seems that both the town of Huntsville staff as well as the mayor seemed equally confused about that respective role. The question we posed to Huntsville was fairly clear; Who is overseeing the project and who is responsible for clean up of the plastic material in the ditches. It seems that passing the buck was the first response; Sorry not our jurisdiction therefore not our problem. So much so that they have no idea whose jurisdiction it belongs under but certainly not theirs. Meanwhile plastic straps are polluting drainage ditches sending garbage flowing downstream.

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