Health

Family farm owners worry proposed fertilizer storage site could pollute the air | CBC News

A popular southwestern Ontario guest ranch that caters to tourists and first responders suffering from PTSD says a proposed biosolids storage facility just down the road could poison the land, water and foul the resort’s fresh country air. 

Texas Longhorn Ranch is a working farm located a half hour west of London, Ont., that offers a bed and breakfast along with trail riding for some 8,000 visitors a year who are looking to relax and enjoy the property’s peaceful country atmosphere. 

Owners Fred and Gail Cahill say a proposed storage facility for biosolids, a controversial fertilizer made from processed municipal sewer sludge, will shatter the peace and quiet of their family-owned business, by bringing noise, traffic and fouling nearby water and air. 

“I don’t know if you’re familiar with biosolids, but there’s an odour to it and it lingers for days,” said Fred Cahill. “When you take the prevailing winds here you can smell it all the time.”

“It’s not a very healthy environment to live in.” 

Cahill said the company’s experiments with sample piles created fetid air that drifted onto the family property this summer, spoiling the ranch’s quaint country atmosphere.

The ranch features Texas longhorn cattle, a breed known for its distinctive horns, which can span more than two metres from tip to tip. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Health and wellness is central to the Cahill’s business. The ranch offers patrons peace and quiet, fresh air and a chance to unwind. Gail Cahill said the noise from the transport trucks laden with fertilizer will chase away the wildlife, create noise and ruin the quiet country ambience for which their business is internationally known. 

“They want to come to Canada and see what it’s like,” she said. “We get people from around the world. They come here year after year.”

“Those people won’t be able to handle it and we won’t be able to be in business at all, that’s what my fear is.” 

The fear isn’t just losing a business the Cahills have taken 37 years to create. The fear is also losing a legacy. The Cahills’ children have also built their homes on their sprawling property and the hope is the family farm can eventually be passed down through the generations. 

“We would like our kids and our grandkids to continue this if they choose to and they won’t be able to,” she said, noting the fertilizer depot can easily be moved somewhere else. 

“We can’t,” she said. 

Fred and Gail Cahill explain why think a proposed storage site for processed municipal sewage near their guest ranch would ruin its quaint country ambiance. 1:00

CBC News reached out to LaSalle Agri Fertilizer, the company behind the proposed facility on Kerwood Road and its owner David Bruuma on Friday, but did not receive a reply to its request for comment. 

According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, biosolids are what’s leftover when municipal sewage sludge is treated, processed and the clean water is separated and returned to a river or lake. 

The solid materials go through an additional treatment process to remove potentially harmful micro-organisms.

The province says, if processed properly, the materials pose no threat to human or animal health even though they can contain trace elements of heavy metals, such as mercury, lead and arsenic. 

The material is high in nutrients used in agriculture, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and micronutrients such as zinc, magnesium and copper. 

Fred Cahill believes this bull at his ranch has the longest set of horns on a farm animal in Canada. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The application of biosolids is regulated by provincial law and must be done away from sensitive areas such as wells, surface water and neighbouring homes and businesses. 

LaSalle Agri Fertilizer has created controversy in southwestern Ontario communities in the past about the odour of its products, especially when it rains.

The company was also fined by municipal authorities in Warwick, Ont., in 2019, after its biosolids storage facility received complaints about odour, traffic and noise. 

Since then, the company applied to turn a piece of vacant land at Kerwood Road and not a few kilometres down the road from Texas Longhorn Ranch into a new biosolids storage site, but was rejected by Adelaide-Metcalfe town council. 

The company has appealed the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. The matter will be heard on March 25. 

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