Big Creek study not to include water quality information offered by MD



Big Creek, covered in snow and ice, as seen Monday, February 10, 2014.

Big Creek, covered in snow and ice, as seen Monday, February 10, 2014.

By Ron Giofu


A report into the Big Creek Watershed was received by town council with administration directed to utilize the plan as reference material in future planning, drainage and natural heritage preservation processes.

However, a request from a local doctor to have the study held in abeyance until more work on water quality was performed was turned down, though council did invite the doctor to still do the work and submit it.

Dr. David Coates offered to perform work to study water quality issues he has in the Big Creek Watershed free of charge as he was concerned over water coming into the marsh and the chance it could contain mercury and PCBs.  He said there was no response to his questions during the study process, noting he was on the committee for three years.

“I am asking (council) not to accept the report,” he said. “There’s too much in this report that has not been done.”

Coates outlined several issues that can occur if adults and children were to be exposed to contaminants and wanted further study to ensure that wasn’t happening in the watershed.

“My main issue is if we are conducting a study to protect Big Creek, we have to be careful of what we are pumping in there,” said Coates.

Should there ever be a reason to have to pump out and dredge the creek due to contaminants, he estimated it would cost “tens of millions” to do. Coates requests three to four months to perform his study.

Town planner Rebecca Belanger, who also formerly worked for ERCA, said she recalled water quality specialists getting back to Coates on some of her concerns although she noted she did not know what explanation was given to him.

Tim Byrne, director of watershed management services with ERCA, said ERCA as well as agencies like the Ministry of Natural Resource and the Ministry of the Environment have given “serious consideration” to the matter. He said many of Coates’ concerns were shared by ERCA and other agencies but his concerns fall beyond what is expected of the study.

“Additional studies to further surgically define what is in every drop of water is so beyond the scope of this study,” said Byrne.

Byrne said those studies “go far and beyond” what we are talking about here and believed those type of studies should be funded at the federal and provincial level.

Coates contended “there’s a lot of issues that can be explored” and Councillor Diane Pouget agreed that he should be allowed three to four months to further study the matter.

Councillor Bob Pillon, who along with Councillor John Sutton represents the town on the ERCA board of directors, said the plan has already been approved by ERCA.

“I don’t believe we have the right to authorize anything,” said Pillon.

Sutton believe Coates’ issues could be addressed through future studies and wanted to “let the process flow” and gather information along the way from people like Coates.

“My fear is if we deal with it piece-by-piece, or point-by-point, we could lose our way,” said Sutton.

Dr. John Spellman said council “basically refused” Coates offer to do the work. Spellman was critical of the report, believing items raised by Coates “were supposed to be examined but were not.”

According to Spellman, the watershed study was “a shoddy and sloppy report” and that alleged qualified wetland experts were not used in compiling the report, a point Belanger tried to refute. She said ERCA not only used staff such as biologist/ecologist Dan Lebedyk but consulted with the MNR’s experts as well.

“This report is a mess,” argued Spellman.

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