The mayor of Huntingdon resorted to using force majeure in March to prevent further complications with the town’s wastewater treatment facility.
According to a report filed by Mayor André Brunette during the regular council meeting on April 3, damage to the wastewater treatment plant necessitated urgent action on his part to ensure it could continue to operate effectively. “The emptying of the basins must be carried out before the imminent thaw, i.e. as soon as possible, to ensure that our effluent discharge standards are not breached and that our treatment system operates efficiently,” he stated.
A representative of the Montérégie regional office of the Ministère des Affaires municipals et de l’Habitation agreed with the Brunette’s assessment that the situation represented a case of force majeure, and that according to section 573.2 of the Cities and Towns Act, the mayor could act quickly on his own to ensure the integrity of municipal equipment and facilities.
As a result, the mayor authorized a contract with the firm Tétra-Tech to coordinate the work to completely remove the sludge from pond number one and number two at the wastewater facility. A quotation was also requested from Terrapure to remove the sludge, as well as from Les Fermes Lebec Inc. in Godmanchester to transport and store the sludge for agricultural use.
In his report, the mayor also explained that the expenses arising from these emergency measures would be paid for by Maison Russet Inc. under the terms of an agreement between the town and the company. According to this agreement, the funds will be deposited into a trust account and will be remitted to the town upon the presentation of invoices stemming from the emergency work at the wastewater treatment plant.
Later during the April 3 meeting, a resolution was passed by the municipal council authorizing Brunette and Huntingdon’s director general, Johanne Hébert, to sign an agreement with Maison Russet Inc. regarding the treatment of wastewater generated by the Huntingdon-based plant which specializes in the processing of sweet potatoes.
The agreement stemmed from a notice served by the town of Huntingdon on February 27 to Maison Russet which threatened to stop treating wastewater from the plant unless it conformed to the town’s established discharge standards. At the time, reports showed wastewater concentrations from Maison Russet were averaging at least 300 per cent above maximum daily allowances.
In an interview with The Gleaner in May, Leopold Moyen, the owner of Maison Russet, confirmed new equipment was installed at the plant which would allow the facility to meet the town’s standards.
“We are working closely with the management of Maison Russet to ensure the agreement is respected,” says Brunette. Both the company and the town are monitoring and analyzing the wastewater, and the mayor confirms there is significant improvement. “We seem to be on the right track,” he says.
This is good news for Huntingdon residents. “Usually, we have an unpleasant smell around the 20th of May; this year, no smell so far,” says Brunette, who suggests this is due to the work done to clean the ponds.