Two new representatives from agriculture sector join Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Drinking Water Source Protection Committee (SPC)
A committee to protect local municipal drinking water sources has announced that Mary Ellen Foran, of the Auburn area, and Bert Dykstra, of the Clinton area, are the two newest members of the committee. They have filled the two vacant seats from the Economic – Agriculture sector on the Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Drinking Water Source Protection Committee (SPC).
“We are pleased to welcome Mary Ellen and Bert to the committee,” said Matt Pearson, SPC Chair. “The knowledge and experience they bring will be valuable as we update and review technical work, continue to implement policies to protect municipal drinking water sources, and – going forward – as we begin to consider any desired amendments to approved assessment reports and source protection plans.”
Mary Ellen Foran was born and raised in West Wawanosh Township and is now a partner in a mixed farming operation there. On the farm, she adopts practices and projects that improve the land and add protection to water. She has a Bachelor of Science, with a major in soil science, from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Western Ontario. She is an instructor for Integrated Pest Management for Corn and Soybeans, University of Guelph Ridgetown College, and an online literacy practitioner with the Avon Maitland District School Board. Prior to her current education roles, she completed contract work with the Huron County Soil and Crop Improvement Association, delivering Environmental Farm Plan workshops, plus contract work with local conservation authorities, working with landowners to find grant sources and practical solutions to reduce environmental impacts. She is a volunteer Huron County 4-H leader and director and serves in other volunteer roles in her community. Three of her five children are involved in agriculture-related careers. As an SPC member she looks forward to bringing an agricultural perspective to the table and to offer local knowledge and practical approaches to protection of municipal drinking water sources.
Bert Dykstra runs a cash crop and broiler chicken operation. He has farmed in the Clinton area his entire working life. The native of Clinton supports a strong agricultural sector and he feels good water quality is an important resource for all sectors. The Municipality of Central Huron resident served as a municipal councillor for almost two decades. He served as a Warden of Huron County (2010) and as a Chairman of the Huron County Water Protection Steering Committee for three years. He also served for six years on the board of the Clinton Hospital Foundation as well as on other committees and in other civic service. He looks forward to serving on the drinking water source protection committee as someone with years of experience in agriculture and as a champion of practical and workable approaches to preserve water quality and protect local water resources.
The Ausable Bayfield Source Protection Authority accepted applications for the two vacant agriculture seats between August 15, 2017 and October 16, 2017. The local source protection authorities selected the two members after review of all candidates. The two newest agriculture representatives attended their first meeting on November 22, 2017. The other agriculture representative is Keith Black, who has served on the committee since its start in 2007.
After ten years of service on the committee as an agriculture representative, Rowena Wallace has retired from the committee. The source protection committee thanked her, at the November 22 committee meeting, for her decade of dedicated service. In appreciation of her contributions, Chair Matt Pearson presented her with a copy of Agriculture Today: A Portrait of Family Farms in Ontario by local authors and photographers Telfer Wegg, Bonnie Hogarth Sitter, and Fred Helwig.
The make-up of the SPC is shaped by the source protection committee regulation (Ontario Regulation 288/07) and by a local process that took place to decide how to include diverse voices at the committee table. One third of the committee is from municipalities. One third (five members) comes from economic sectors. Locally, three of those five economic member seats are from agriculture and the other two are from industry and commerce (including tourism). The other third of the committee represents Other – Environmental, Health, and other interests of the public (including property owner association representation; public reps from the two source protection areas; and environmental sector representatives). “The diverse voices at the table help the committee to find practical and effective ways to keep our local drinking water safe and clean, starting at the source,” said Pearson. “We have a talented group of people to help us as we implement, monitor, and update policies that reduce risk to municipal drinking water in this region.”
Other former agriculture reps on the committee included Mike Strang, who served on the committee in 2007 and 2008, and John Vander Burgt, who served as an agriculture rep from 2008 to 2016. John Vander Burgt passed away in 2016.
The Ausable Bayfield Maitland Valley Drinking Water Source Protection Committee is a 15-member committee in addition to the Chair. The committee was Ontario’s first SPC. The members have worked with the public since 2007 to create local terms of reference, assessment reports, and source protection plans. This work is made possible by the Ontario Clean Water Act, 2006.
The Province of Ontario approved the locally developed source protection plans on January 19, 2015. The plans took effect on April 1, 2015. Plan policies address 21 activities (such as fuel or chemical storage; among others) that can pose a significant threat to municipal drinking water sources in certain circumstances (for example, in certain quantities and in the most vulnerable locations such as municipal wellhead protection areas).
There are four types of vulnerable areas. They are wellhead protection areas (zones of protection around municipal wells, to protect groundwater); surface water intake protection zones (in this region, around Lake Huron intakes); significant groundwater recharge areas; and highly vulnerable aquifers. Activities in vulnerable areas are assessed as low, moderate or significant threats to municipal drinking water sources. In this region, significant threats to drinking water are only found in wellhead protection area zones A, B, and C. Plan policies in those relatively small areas reduce risk by using tools ranging from education and outreach, to risk management plans, to restricted land uses, or prohibition of some activities in some cases.