The Perth Courier

April 11, 2001

Tribunal hears arguments on water taking

Vice-chair to outline relevant arguments

by  Gena Gibson
People on both sides of the appeal of OMYA (Canada) Inc.’s water-taking permit will soon learn the scope of arguments allowed by an environmental tribunal.

Appellants argued April 2 for a wide-open discussion of the issues, with OMYA and Ontario Ministry of Environment lawyers countering those arguments the next day. Tribunal vice-chair Pauline Browse listened to both sides and will decide the validity of each by the end of April.

Steven Shrybman, a lawyer with the Council of Canadians, offered legal arguments on behalf of the eight appellants. He also explained the council’s concern about the bulk export of water and its subsequent effects on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Carol Dillon, a Bathurst Burgess Sherbrooke resident who appealed the MOE’s decision along with her husband Mel, then gave her interpretation of the decision which allowed the appeals to proceed. She said Alan Bryant, OMYA’s lawyer, and Doug Waters, the lawyer from the MOE, had attempted to narrow the scope when, in fact, the appellants believed all factors must be considered for the vice-chair to make an informed decision.

“It took a tremendous amount of preparation because more and more, we’re learning that this is a legal process,” Ms. Dillon explained. “I tried to respond in a way that would speak to these two lawyers (for OMYA and the ministry).”

Michael Cassidy, an appellant who owns a cottage near OMYA’s quarry in Tatlock, spoke next about the permit’s potential effect on res-idents due to increased operation at the quarry. He was followed by Bobs Lake cottager Anne German, an 82-year-old Toronto woman who travelled to the hearing.

“It was very heartfelt,” Ms. Dillon said.

Stittsville environmentalist Ken McRae spoke last at first day of the lengthy hearing, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Mr. Bryant and Mr. Waters also sought to exclude two latecomers who would like to join the process. Sulyn Cedar, head of the Lanark County Citizens’ Action Group, applied to become a party in the hearing, as did Robert Loveless, who represents the Ardoch Algonquin Indians.

“Our position is that they weren’t part of the original appellants,” said OMYA administrator Ray McCarthy. “We don’t feel that’s following the rules.”

He said OMYA continues to produce its calcium carbonate slurry at previous levels while the hearing is in progress. The permit granted by the MOE would allow the company on Hwy. 7 to take 4.5 million litres per day, the equivalent of 17 litres per second, from the Tay River at the end of 10 years. The first phase of the permit would allow the removal of almost 1.5 million litres per day until 2004.

“(The vice-chair) has a lot of decision-making to do,” Ms. Dillon admitted. “It was a very important two days because they will decide how many issues can go forward to the hearing.”

The hearing is scheduled to take place at various locations throughout the Perth area from June 25 to July 6. The Dillons said the vice-chair still hopes to find one location which will accommodate the many people interested in the issue.

The hearing was originally scheduled for the county council chambers on Sunset Boulevard. However, participants most recently met at McMartin House.