A one-year interim control bylaw has been slapped down in what some critics have called "hog haven" while a study of intensive farming of all types of livestock is undertaken in the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.
The municipality in question is Nation Township which has more intensive hog operations either up and running or planned than any other jurisdiction in Eastern Ontario. In all cases, the operators are major Quebec-based commercial enterprises.
In the past, Nation Mayor Denis Pommainville, a farming lawyer, has stated that his municipality - which relies on farming as a major revenue generator - is wide open to hog farm proposals.
However, said Nation clerk Mary McCuaig, so many were coming forward it seemed necessary to impose the temporary control bylaw.
Nation is no stranger to hog operations originating in Quebec. Two large barns established near St. Isidore several years ago have been carefully managed and have generated no complaints, the clerk said.
One of the latest proposal's is for a 2,500 head barn at Pendleton. Not only have environmentalists and neighbours raised concerns, but the site has been ruled to be archeologically significant.
An intervention by the Ministry of Culture has resulted in a temporary work stoppage at the site which had been green-lighted for Quebec operators after it met all requirements.
Council was surprised to learn after the fact that the hog farm overlapped a recognized treasure trove of Native artifacts and requested that the owners cease building activities.
"The law carries heavy fines if a designated site isn't respected... up to $250,000," McCuaig said. "The owners have voluntarily complied."
The Pendleton project is one of three in the municipality which have come under fire from the Sierra Club of Canada and other objectors. Another Quebec-sponsored operation near St. Albert has been up and running for a few months, while a third proposal has been put on hold since introduction the interim control bylaw.
But that doesn't satisfy objectors: "It's a hog barn holiday," said environmental gadfly Maureen Reilly, the Sierra Club's water campaign coordinator. "Mega" hog barns in Nation are exempt from industrial environmental assessment provisions which allow them to locate "essentially where they like", Reilly complained.
Reilly and her colleagues are opposed to building hog barns without an assessment. They call nutrient management legislation "a joke", claiming the province has done nothing to manage "these massive pathogen producing facilities."
The club isn't alone in opposing the project. Claiming that intensive hog farms originating in Quebec bring nothing but manure to Eastern Ontario, about 75 area residents demonstrated outside the Nation municipal office near Casselman recently.
"We're not just talking about the health-damaging odours... we're talking about E coli in our water," said Kelli LeBlanc, coordinator of Farms Yes Factories No, one of a handful of groups fighting the proposed barns.
LeBlanc and her supporters want the province to begin regulating large hog barns as industries rather than farms. They are now circulating a petition to that effect for presentation to area MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde who has promised to introduce it in the provincial legislature.
Emphasizing that her group isn't against hog farms under any and all circumstances, LeBlanc said she needs to be convinced intensive operations are safe, particularly where water resources are concerned.