Environmental Management at Greenhouses in Ontario

The Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) has made clear their concerns with water quality issues, water supply issues, and discharges of wastewater…but not from what you might think of as a “typical” industry of concern for the MOE. The Ministry’s concern is with Ontario’s Greenhouse Business. In fact, according to an MOE report, “Greenhouse Wastewater Monitoring, 2010-2011” (http://bit.ly/MJkiqJ), the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watersheds have been “heavily impacted by greenhouse inputs.”

The MOE report published in January 2012, documents that there have been negative impacts to surface waters/streams/rivers from greenhouse operations in southwestern Ontario. The surface water quality in several watersheds near the greenhouses has been impacted with elevated concentrations of potassium, phosphorus, nitrates, and several metals.

Because the watersheds have been negatively impacted, the MOE stated they “cannot support further greenhouse development within (the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watersheds) without appropriate treatment technology in place.”

So, if you are a greenhouse owner and want to expand, what do you need to do?

Start with an evaluation of your operations and define all of your actual and potential stormwater, sanitary sewage, and process wastewater outputs or discharges. This will help to identify how many activities potentially need to be covered by the Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA)1. If you are not familiar with the ECA process, an ECA is required for operations that may have discharges or emissions (air, water, noise).

As you consider your ECA, one challenge you may face is how you segregate stormwater from process wastewater. A more significant challenge is how you manage and/or treat process wastewater. And, in all likelihood, your local MOE district office will want to see how you are addressing these issues.

The bottom line is if you are starting a new greenhouse or looking to expand your greenhouse operations, whether you are in the Sturgeon Creek and Lebo Drain watershed or elsewhere, it would be wise to give careful consideration to your environmental permitting requirements. Good planning, engineering, and design will play a key role in a successful development.

If you have questions or need assistance with an Environmental Compliance Approval, contact Chris Pare’, P. Geo. (cpare@dragun.com) at 519-979-7300.

1. Previously “Certificate of Approval” or “C of A”

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