A complaint from a farmer about a County of Stettler lagoon discharge was complicated by farming practices in that area, heard councillors at their regular meeting May 12.
Councillors read a memo presented by Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk regarding the release of treated effluent from the Red Willow lagoon in the fall of 2020.
“The Red Willow lagoon was drained in the fall of 2020 and the outfall of treated effluent did not fully follow the established ditch and there was some accumulation in an adjacent wetland, so the drainage was stopped,” stated Brysiuk in his report.
He presented a letter of complaint about this lagoon release from Glen Goertzen of Mike-Ro Farms Ltd.
“Last November the county released the wastewater from the Red Willow sewage holding pond resulting in flooding areas of land belonging to Mike-Ro Farms Ltd.,” stated Goertzen’s letter dated April 26.
“I was contacted…before the release of the water but I did not grant permission. I was concerned at the time about contaminants in the water and where they might end up. I still have that concern.
“When the drain was opened…the release filled several low areas on SE 18-40-18 W4 then ran over the east/west municipal road and filled low areas on SE 17-40-18 W4. From 17 the flow crossed the north/south municipal road and wound up in 21-40-18 W4 where it is now stagnant.
This spring had virtually no runoff. In a year with average runoff, many arable acres would have been unfarmable.
“In my opinion, this is no better than a contaminated liquid spill and should not be left lying stagnant on section 21,” stated Goertzen’s letter.
“We do not want the Red Willow sewage holding pond released onto our land again at any time in the future.”
Brysiuk stated investigation suggested farming operations appear to have changed the flow of the ditch.
“Examination in the spring has shown that the ditch may no longer be consistent with the as-constructed grades due to use by farming operations that have deposited cultivated soils into the ditch, in effect partially changing the flow path for lagoon discharge,” stated Brysiuk’s report.
“Prior to the next planned discharge this year, the county will conduct a topographic survey (of) the drainage path and verify against our approvals and as-constructed records.
If there is a discrepancy in the drainage path grades and cross-section, we will correct it this year and advise adjacent landowners that disturbance of county road allowances without prior written approval is prohibited.
“Installation of a fence may be required to ensure no further disturbance occurs.
“As long as our infrastructure is constructed and maintained in accordance with our approvals from Alberta Environment and Parks, we are not required to seek consent from or notify neighbours or other landowners along the natural outfall path nor pay compensation for crop losses incurred as a result of farming over a wetland which naturally takes the water,” stated Brysiuk.
However, during discussion Brysiuk noted that to be a good neighbour the county still notifies property owners of the discharge.
Coun. Wayne Nixon stated he didn’t fully agree with this summary. Nixon stated he met with people in that area about this issue and he feels the situation was not entirely the fault of the farmer and could have been a problem with the original drainage.
Councillors decided to accept Goertzen’s letter for information purposes.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter