OMYA set for daily pumping from Tay
Dave Rogers
The Ottawa Citizen
January 2, 2003

OMYA Canada Inc. is to start pumping up to 1.5 million litres of water daily from the Tay River near Perth by mid-month.

The water will be mixed with crushed calcium carbonate and made into a white slurry needed to produce paper, drywall, toothpaste, antacids, paint and other products.

Olivier Chatillon, president of the Swiss mining company's Canadian subsidiary, said a 1.7-kilometre pipeline from the river to the company's plant at Glen Tay west of Perth will be running within weeks. Mr. Chatillon said the company will continue to use ground water for calcium carbonate production until the pipeline is working properly.

The plan to use river water to make the slurry for export has been at the centre of a three-year controversy.

Some people who live in the Tay watershed argue that fish spawning areas in nearby lakes will be harmed, and that the shallow river could run dry periodically, if the Ontario Environment Ministry grants OMYA's appeal to increase water taking to 4.5 million litres daily.

The province's Environmental Review Tribunal said OMYA should limit its water taking to 1.5 million litres a day. However, Environment Minister Chris Stockwell recently agreed to consider approving OMYA's proposal to use more water.

Mr. Stockwell has not announced when he will make a decision on the appeal, and no date has been set for the hearing of a similar OMYA appeal to divisional court in Ottawa.

A recent federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans study says increased water taking would cause the river level to drop by about two centimetres, but wouldn't harm the environment.

Carol Dillon, a property owner who opposes OMYA's most recent water taking plan, said the water level is very low after three years of limited rainfall.

Ms. Dillon said property owners want to know if the river flow will be monitored and information about the condition of the river provided to the public.

Property owners have rejected an OMYA proposal for a stay of part of the Environmental Tribunal requirement for an annual public information meeting on the condition of the river and the appointment of an independent environmental auditor to oversee the water-taking.

"That auditor should be in place before the company starts pumping water," Ms. Dillon said. "The community and the municipalities should have an opportunity to meet with the auditor and ask questions. They are not supposed to be taking water when the flow falls below one cubic metre per second. There are still people who say no water should be taken from the Tay and that the company has ruined one of the most beautiful little streams in Eastern Ontario by building a pumping station on its shore."

Mr. Chatillon said the public will receive information about river levels when the company starts pumping water to its processing plant. "It is better to pump surface water than ground water," he said. "We have better control because the surface water is much easier to monitor than ground water."

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