Letter: Soil brokerage a dirty business

In speaking only for myself and not the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) this letter is in response to the story “Six Nations Elected Council releases statement addressing rumours on social media” June 5, 2019.

Since the protesters brought the dumping of soil (Excavated Surplus Material) into the forefront by supporting the Johnson family dumping soil on their property on 4th Line there has been much talk about the soil dumping business. The dumping of soil is big business. A lot of communities are finding themselves having to deal with this issue.

The Ontario government announced recently stiffer penalties for illegal soil dumping. Currently Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly introduced a Made-In-Ontario-Environmental Plan that will not only prevent illegal dumping in Flamborough Township but also illegal dumping in other rural areas. City of Hamilton Councillor Lloyd Ferguson called the problem “chronic” claiming that over 600 trucks a day are dumping soil at a Waterdown business.

Greater Toronto has clamped down on soil dumping, inadvertently redirecting the soil dumping to other rural areas. The soil comes from large development projects. In many projects developers dig deep to accommodate 5-6 levels of parking or shopping centres. Then they have to find a way to get rid of all the surplus soil. Under Ontario’s environmental laws those in violation could be fined up to $200,000 for each incident. Possibility the fines will be higher.

A while back a reporter writing a story about the dumping in Flamborough Township likened soil dumping to a drug cartel. A drug cartel finds people to distribute their drugs. The distributor then finds people to sell the drugs. The seller then finds people to buy the drugs. The soil business operates much the same. The developer contracts a company to get rid of the soil. The company employs front men or what I call Soil Brokers. The Soil Broker’s job is to find a landowner willing to have the soil dumped on his/her property.

Because the surplus soil is so hard to get rid of the Soil Broker offers the landowners up to a $1000 per truck load. The Soil Broker and landowner sign a contract. Some landowners are known to sign ten-year contracts. That’s ten years of soil being dumped onto their properties. Or a landowner might agree to a large number of truckloads per day.

The soil dumping business is a shady business. It’s the underbelly of the development industry. The Soil Brokers are smart, like hustlers. They tell the landowner the soil is clean. They will produce legit papers that says the soil was tested clean by an independent company. But the company doing the testing is either in cahoots with the developer or the Soil Broker or the company is an arm of the development company itself.

Once the Soil Broker finds a landowner to take the soil they hire trucking companies to truck the soil using huge dump trucks. So everybody is making money: The Soil Broker, the landowner and the trucking company and the developer gets rid of the “Excavated Surplus Material”. The only one losing is the community who has to put up with the large volumes of trucks and the neighbours of the landowner.

The landowner is very secretive about the contract. The Soil Broker is secretive. One Soil Broker told the SNEC he lied when he said the landowner wasn’t getting paid. That’s what the landowner asked him to say he said. And he didn’t care as long as he had someone to take the soil. If landowners tell people they aren’t getting paid, it’s doubtful they’re being upfront.  What landowner in their right mind would agree to dump all that soil on their property for free when they can easily get paid up to a $1000 per truckload?

Unfortunately, these Soil Brokers have found a gold mine at Six Nations with its lack of any environmental laws. Some landowners when told by SNEC, the police and community members to stop dumping the soil did stop. But we know not all landowners stopped.

People always need soil for one project or another. Some buy topsoil, others post signs that says Clean Fill Wanted. Some may need a number of truckloads. But having truckloads of soil scheduled to be dumped on a landowner’s property for 10 years or even two years is suspicious. Currently SNEC is working on developing some kind of guidelines and regulations to police the soil dumping business.


Councillor Helen Miller

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