More time needed for complex reports, says South Glengarry councillor

South Glengarry councillors Lyle Warden and Bill McKenzie look through their agenda prior to a February 2018 meeting. Warden doesn't believe he and fellow councillors get enough time to digest complex reports which could hold them personally liable. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

LANCASTER – A South Glengarry councillor says more time is needed to digest complex and lengthy reports, especially when he and others could be held personally liable for their contents.

Coun. Lyle Warden brought his concerns forward at the beginning of last week’s meeting as council was about to accept the municipality’s annual water and waste water reports for 2017.

The reports show whether the water plants in Glen Walter, Lancaster and Redwood Estates and the sewage plants in Glen Walter, Lancaster and Green Valley are complaint.

Warden asked that the report, which is 60-some pages and filled with technical data, be addressed in a special open meeting with staff, instead of crammed in with a full council agenda.

“I sat down and read this staff report very slowly line by line and I feel there’s not enough information in there. Council members can potentially be held liable for issues that could potentially arise from waste water and water,” Warden said.

“I read it very closely and I started to get a headache…with all the data,” he said.

Infrastructure GM Ewen MacDonald had tried to sway council to approve the reports that night so they could be submitted to the Ministry of Environment, even though South Glengarry had already missed the submission deadline – it was due the end of February.

The report also includes an “issue of non-compliance” with the Lancaster system, MacDonald added. The report shows that in June 2017 a problem with the chemical feed system at the sewage plant, caused an imbalance in the effluent being discharged from the plant (too much phosphorous).

Deputy Mayor Frank Prevost agreed there was a lack of information and context in the report.

“There’s 60 pages to absorb and three days that we have to absorb it. It’s difficult to do so if you don’t understand everything that’s in there,” Prevost said.

“We don’t get enough time to analyze this stuff properly,” Warden added. “We’re not given enough time to absorb the information and to ask the proper questions.”

“You probably need an education to understand those charts,” Coun. Bill McKenzie remarked, referring in general to the complexity of the documentation.

Council will defer the annual reports for two weeks and council will submit questions to staff before the next meeting March 19.

The reports are required under Ontario’s Safe Drinking Water Act, which was put in place in 2002, after the Walkerton, Ont. water tragedy where seven people died from drinking contaminated water.