Dear Minister Guillemard
My name is Bill Massey and I represent a group called the Concerned Citizens of Grosse Isle. We were formed in 2004 to deal with a proposed hog barn expansion at the nearby Rock Lake Hutterite Colony. I know that Our MLA Ralph Eichler gave you a brief synopsis of our attempts to have the hogs in the operation counted so I won’t go into those details in this letter. However I would be remiss if it wasn’t firmly conveyed that we believe a hog count properly and regularly conducted would go a long way in dealing with the underlying issues of environment, real estate values and the rights of citizens living right next door to a farming corporation that continues to press its will on a larger group of concerned citizens.
Let me say first of all, that we have never attempted to shut down this operation; our concern has always been that the Colony is housing more pigs than they are permitted under the municipal bylaw. It is unfortunate that the Municipality of Woodlands allowed this development in that location in the first place as it has proven to be a real concern to the many residents who live close by and in the village of Grosse Isle. Over the years, on the occasions when the Colony has maintained their herd at the correct number, the effects on the community have been tolerable. The problem is that over the past eight years or so the municipality has steadfastly refused to count the herd, even though it is clearly evident the herd is too large, by the smell, truck traffic etc.
We have made many attempts to convince the municipality to enforce their bylaw. The Municipalities of Rosser and Rockwood where most of us, who are affected live, have tried several times as well to no avail. At this time the Colony is reporting the number of pigs they have in their operation to Woodlands Municipality and the municipality is accepting those numbers at face value. The other issue I am aware of, having had conversations with Conservation in the past that they are not putting the correct numbers down on the manure management plan. Grosse Isle sits on an aquifer where most of us in the rural area get our drinking water and we’re concerned about the possibility of contamination.
There is no doubt, we have been told by a local real estate agent, that the property values of our homes and the ability to sell them has been greatly affected by this situation. I have been contacted by people who are interested in buying properties in the area and I had to tell them I would not buy property within 2 miles of this operation and if you’re downstream from the Colony, the effect on the ground water might even go farther. One of the members of our group, who lives across the road from the Colony, is attempting to sell their house and is deeply concerned how this situation will affect the sale.
The municipality tells us that officials from the government have been pressuring them to allow the colony to fill their barn. We’ve heard this twice from the municipal officials and if this is true it is very disturbing to us. What it means is that the provincial government is urging the municipality to break its own bylaws. All of this is because the department was misled about how many animals the Colony actually had in their operation at the beginning of this sordid mess. I’ve just completed a book that chronicles the events from 2004 till December 2020 which is scheduled to be published next month. I would hope that I can write a sequel that says that this was a turning point in our attempts to resolve this issue.
When we started out we were reporting to Conservation environmental infractions that we saw in the Colony’s operation. I believe we reported eight infractions before Conservation finally issued a fine. Since that time I am not aware of any infractions on the part of the Colony. The Colony member in charge of the hog barn met with one of our members at the mailboxes a year ago last December. He stated that the Colony had won, and all they had to do was to wait for Bill Massey to die or move away! We firmly believe based on experience, that if the Colony knew that a count can occur at the request of the community, they would maintain their herd at the correct number. We are of the opinion this problem is not hard to solve. We were mystified when Mr. Eichler told us that you would not meet with us. We are responsible citizens who have been doing our best to work within the parameters we have been given to solve this problem for our community. We have an operation here that is breaking the law and a municipality that refuses to enforce it. I think addressing problems in our own backyard is a good step to help resolve the issues around climate change and environment we all face. I want to be able to look at my grandchildren in the years to come when we talk about the environment and they ask me, what did you do Grandpa? Please meet with us and Minister Eichler and help us to finally resolve this longstanding and important issue.