Five directors from the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the Union des Producteurs Agricole (UPA) called on the 13 members of the regional council to work together to better control backfill operations taking place within the region, during the regular monthly meeting at the MRC.
The producers spoke of their serious concerns relating to the potential use of contaminated soil as fill on agricultural land, which could negatively affect soil and water resources within the territory of the Haut-Saint-Laurent. They questioned whether it was possible to impose stricter controls over fill operations, while proposing a series of possible solutions that would at least slow the pace of trucks dumping material on local farms.
The UPA representatives suggested that protection zones, where backfill operations would be banned, could be established around municipal, residential, and agricultural wells. They also proposed that municipalities select the laboratories to be used for soil analysis, and that inspections be carried out on a regular basis where soil samples are taken and analyzed at the expense of the permit applicant. The farmers also encouraged the imposition of more significant fines for non-compliance and suggested that all citizens be informed of their obligations in relation to the bylaws governing backfill work.
“The power to act exists, and it rests largely in the hands of the region’s mayors,” said Ian Ward, the local representative for other vegetable producers. “It is within your control as elected officials to not allow our soil and drinking water to be contaminated with impunity,” he added, before requesting that a special meeting be called to discuss the issue at length.
After listening to the statement from the UPA, the MRC du Haut-Saint-Laurent prefect and mayor of Sainte-Barbe, Louise Lebrun, noted that this was not the first time that the regional council was questioned about backfill operation on its territory. “I can tell you that we are all on the same page,” she said. “It is a frustration for you, the farmers, and for all of us,” she continued, before promising to work together with the local UPA on this issue.
“It is big, this file,” Lebrun suggested, while acknowledging the request for a special meeting. “We need to think about how to organise this,” she said.
A press release issued by the UPA on Monday states the local syndicate is now awaiting news from the MRC regarding Lebrun’s promise to hold a special meeting as soon as reasonably possible to discuss the means available to municipalities to regulate “the flood of hundreds of trucks transporting contaminated soils to our region.”