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Co-op seeks to expand fertilizer operation

Expansion planned - North Wellington Co-operative Services plans to decommission its existing fertilizer storage and mixing facility and create an expanded facility at its main site on Margaret Street in Harriston. ABOVE: The current mixing and storage facility.       Photo by Patrick Raftis

Co-op seeks to expand fertilizer operation

by Patrick Raftis

HARRISTON - Minto council has given approval in principal to a site plan for a proposed new fertilizer storage and blending facility on the North Wellington Co-op property here.

In an Aug. 1 report to council, building inspector Stacey Pennington explained the company plans to construct a 16,700 square foot facility at its main site on Margaret Street in Harriston. 

The new facility will include a storage area with a dry fertilizer mixing facility, electrical room and office, a covered drive-through, an extension of the existing chemical storage area, shipping scale and overhead hopper, liquid fertilizer storage tanks and associated containment areas. 

Currently the site contains warehousing, offices and a retail outlet store. A fertilizer storage facility is located on a property across Margaret Street.

Existing Building

An existing building on the site of the proposed expansion.   Photo by Patrick Raftis

“Although the chemical components and mixing associated with the process will remain about the same, the new building will have about six times the capacity of the existing mixing facility,” the staff report states.

“Once the new building is in place, the old bulk mixing facility will be converted to just storage.”

The property is zoned M1-25 along Margaret Street and M1 on the rest of the property. 

“This is a general industrial zoning allowing warehousing, storage, spreaders and unloading equipment associated with the bulk fertilizer operation north of Margaret Street,” the report explains.

“The M1 zoning does not allow fertilizer manufacturing. Staff confirmed the Co-op does not manufacture fertilizer, but mixes finished dry products such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium into the farm product. On that basis staff is satisfied zoning permits mixing and storage of fertilizers and associated shipping and receiving.”

The subject lands have access to municipal services but the proposed new building will not be connected to sewer and water, the report notes.

“A condition of site plan approval is recommended to ensure the applicant’s engineer identify existing infrastructure on-site, and ensure it is removed to the satisfaction of public works,” the report states.

“Final grading and drainage details will be required to ensure dry and liquid materials have appropriate containment areas to prevent run-off into the municipal storm sewer system.”

While the report notes traffic patterns around the business are expected to be impacted, Co-op manager Kelly Boyle advised Minto staff that while the facility capacity will increase from 400 to 2,500 tonnes, operationally traffic will be much more manageable, as the increased storage will allow the shipping and receiving to be spread through three seasons instead of just the spring.

“It should be an improvement to their actual process,” Pennington told council.

The Co-op property is identified as a high-risk property due to the storage of propane and chemicals in close proximity to the Maitland River. However, the report notes a risk safety management plan is in place in relation to the newly-relocated propane storage that contains requirements for the chemical storage warehouse. 

The report notes Wellington County emergency manager Linda Dickson was contacted to advise on how the new proposed development impacts emergency management and response. 

“The town would like to reserve the right to formally comment on this at a later date,” the report notes.

As the Co-op property is located within the wellhead protection area for the Harriston municipal wells, handling or storage of dense non-aqueous phase liquids is considered “a significant drinking water threat” as defined by the Clean Water Act and associated regulations.

Pennington, Minto’s source water risk management inspector, and Wellington County risk management official Kyle Davis have met to discuss the project and a risk management plan has been drafted and signed by the applicant as a condition of site plan approval.

Pennington told council the project generally conforms with the site specific zoning that allows the smaller scale fertilizer operation currently in place “so there isn’t really a concern from that aspect.” 

She noted that shutting down the existing fertilizer storage facility is a key element of the site plan.

“So basically, we’re saying if we’re going to let you expand your fertilizer storage, then we want to see the one with the smaller capacity and higher risk decommissioned,” she stated.

“I probably haven’t seen a more complicated project for a site in an urban area in a very, very long time,” noted CAO Bill White, who commended Pennington for her work on the report.

“There’s a lot of issues, from the potential volatility of some of the stuff there, to traffic and impact on drains and source water and fire protection and emergency management - but we’re recommending that the plan be approved with various conditions.”

White said staff believe the new facility “will represent an improvement.” 

However, he noted, “It will be a very imposing building when it is built and there will be a lot going on there.

“We think it’s emblematic of an active agricultural community, but it’s important that these things be looked at. It’s in the centre of our community and in the centre of this particular area and we want to make sure that it’s safe and I know that they do as well.”

Councillor Jean Anderson expressed concern about the amount of potentially hazardous material on the site and asked Minto Fire Chief Chris Harrow if he had any issues with the plan.

“Do you have concerns about the chemicals?” Anderson asked.

“I’m not comfortable authorizing this right now,” she added, noting she would want to see all necessary safety plans in place, not just in progress, before the project is approved.

“When you think of the potential interactions, what about our risks to firefighters? Town employees?” she asked.

“You’re talking some pretty major chemicals there.”

Harrow explained risk management plans are already in place, “because they do have that stuff on site now.” However, he noted the plans need to be adjusted for scale and conformity.

“The problem with it is, like with a lot of things, is there’s silos. We want the plans to talk to each other,” including a process for determining which plan would supercede the others if necessary, he explained.

“Is it ideal to have a facility like this in town? No, but it’s here and we’re dealing with it,” Harrow stated.

“This is such a huge improvement over what they’re doing now … as far as the chemical storage goes,” said councillor Judy Dirksen.

“I think the building now that they’re working in mixing fertilizer is pretty scary.”

“I agree with councillor Dirksen. This is going to be a huge improvement to the current status,” said deputy mayor Ron Faulkner.

While noting, “I’m concerned, as councillor Anderson is,” Mayor George Bridge stated, “They do all three things now (propane, gasoline and fertilizer) and they have plans in place ... we have an opportunity here to tighten up things a bit.”

Bridge added, “The Co-op has always been a very good corporate citizen. I think that they will comply with anything we want to make sure that we are safe.”

Council approved the proposed plan in principal, subject to the execution of a site plan agreement including: 

- confirmation of grading and drainage, site servicing details as well as the applicant’s engineer identifying and overseeing removal of any existing unnecessary infrastructure;

 - verification of on- and off-site traffic movement details in relation to existing Westario poles and other infrastructure on municipal streets;

- confirmation from Minto Fire and the county emergency manager that the fire safety and risk safety management plans are up to date and consistent with the new buildings and infrastructure;

- the risk management plan required under the Clean Water Act is signed and filed and any other requirements regarding the Drinking Water Threat Disclosure Report are met;

-  the bulk fertilizer operation across Margaret Street is decommissioned and converted to storage; and

- all approvals required from senior levels of government or agencies are obtained at the applicant’s expense.

August 11, 2017


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