biodigest-fullDear Mayor Pringle:

I am writing to point out to you, again, that you have an obligation to be completely open and honest with Chatsworth taxpayers about the bio-digester.

The insert in the tax notice distributed recently to every taxpayer in Chatsworth says (in three places) that raw septage is spread on "farm fields," but this is not true. By repeating this falsehood again and again, it looks as though you are attempting to mislead taxpayers so as to minimize very real issues with the bio-digester having to do with viability and costs.

Most people understand "farm fields" as places where food is grown for people and cattle. As you know, it is illegal to spread raw septage on such fields; rather, it is spread on vacant non-agricultural land approved by the Ministry of the Environment for that purpose. The Ministry ensures that there are no nearby wells, rivers, ponds, lakes, streams or drainage ditches so the septage can be "treated" safely by sunshine, oxygen and microbial activity in the soil.

Your choice of words is not just misleading. At the same time, you imply that septage contractors who provide a vital service act irresponsibly and illegally. If they spread raw septage anywhere but on approved vacant land, these contractors risk losing their businesses. And as you know, there are no such approved lands in Chatsworth Township.

Other aspects of the bio-digester need sunlight and fresh air, too.

Chatsworth Council called the public meeting this coming Wednesday to get input from taxpayers and others about a proposed by-law that would obligate residents to pay extra to transport their septage to the bio-digester. But wouldn't such input be of more value if you first took the trouble to let taxpayers know, for example, that the receiving and storage facilities are not capable of handing the quantity of septage that a compulsory by-law would deliver?

I am sorry to have to be this frank, but your response at the July 16th meeting when this issue was raised was appalling. At first you said: "If problems like that arise, we could rescind the by-law." With respect, wouldn't it be better to think about it a little more first, figure out what a solution might be and what it would cost, and then be up front with taxpayers about what would be required?

And your credibility took another serious hit when you went on to suggest to the septic haulers who attended that meeting that they might need to coordinate deliveries amongst themselves to cope with problems at the receiving end. These people make their livings by performing a service most of us would consider to be unpleasant, and you suggest that they might need to set up new ways of doing business to cope with deficiencies that you know about in advance?

Until the misleading insert about "farm fields" in the recent tax notice, the last official word from Chatsworth on the bio-digester was published in the Fall of 2010. At that time, we were told that the bio-digester would make a profit for Chatsworth of about $160,000 per year. Before asking for opinions about a by-law, shouldn't taxpayers be told now that not only is there no profit, but that the net costs to Chatsworth alone are running at more than $300,000 per year? This represents a negative swing of about half a million dollars per year!

Finally, Chatsworth taxpayers also need to be told about the February 2, 2011 Agreement with Georgian Bluffs that makes Chatsworth equally responsible with Georgian Bluffs for septage from the Sunset Strip. For 3½ years (and counting), Chatsworth taxpayers have been paying half of the transportation costs and subsidizing tipping fees for Tim Horton's, the Galaxy Centre and all the rest to exactly the same extent as Georgian Bluffs. Incomprehensible, but true!

In mid-June, Chatsworth Council agreed to develop terms of reference for an engineering / financial report as a first step towards figuring out the best way forward. This should be the first priority of Council.

And the other first priority needs to be to let in some sunshine and oxygen!

Yours truly,
Trevor Falk