Slipping back: background facts

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Kate Aley

Welcome back. While I wait for my file on the accident (December 4) to be retrieved by the MRC des Collines police, I placed calls to two local people, experts on the trucking of manure. For those who are coming in late to this, see my previous "slippery" stories archived here.

First I called a man who owns a business that provides septic tank services among other things. He was particularly helpful and patient, I must say.

He told me that the appearance of septic waste totally depends on how many people use the tank and how often it is emptied: a heavily used tank could contain heavy black solids, a less-used tank would have a lot more watery material. Companies west of Gatineau generally truck the waste to UTEau at the Pontiac Industrial Park situated in the Municipality of Litchfield (often mistakenly identified as being in Portage-du-Fort). Septic waste trucking services based on the other side of Gatineau are more likely to use more locally-based waste treatment sites, except for one in particular that actually owns the UTEau site and so transports waste from the Montebello area across the city to the Pontiac.

When asked about the possibility of a leak, his response was, at first, adamant: it is not possible. The tank must be able to maintain an unbroken vacuum in order for the pump to operate, both to suck up the load and afterwards to discharge it. Later, another thought occurred: if the truck has a release control in the cab, an accidental spill could occur.

Emptying a household septic tank in cold weather is not generally recommended, he said. The bacteria that help consume waste in a septic tank slow down in cold weather. Therefore, if it is emptied in sub-zero temperatures, they could become too cold to be effective. 

Human septic waste is kind of revolting but not actually dangerous, no more dangerous to your health than if you touched your own waste and did not wash your hands. Far more risky is the possibility of a gas build-up in the tank used to transport septic waste:this is a danger only for the operator, of course. Septic waste is treated by raising temperatures to a level that kills pathogens, as with compost. The resulting material can used as a fertilizer for fields, the safety of which is another whole argument.

So, in short, while unlikely that septic sludge was being trucked at this this time of the year and very unlikely that a truck would leak or spill that waste, it is possible.

After this I called another very kind and patient man who was once a pig farmer in this district. I was sure that pig manure was the only kind of animal manure that is stored and transported in a liquid state, but he corrected me.

Dairy cattle manure can be stored in a pit, tank or lagoon and this is transported to fertilize fields in large tanker trailers. However, this is generally done in the spring or early fall: to spread manure on fields after October 1st requires a special permit from the Ministry of the Environment. This is not hard to get, but it's something to avoid having to get, he said.

There are some dairy farms in Luskville; there are no more pig farms here.

Again, in summary, it is unlikely but possible the spill was animal manure.

The culprit was not discovered and is not currently sought by the MTQ.

It remains to be discovered if that person is being sought by the police and, if found, if he or she will be charged. You'll know when I find out.

Drive safely, everyone.

Nos autres nouvelles / Our other News

Our past in stone: sculpture depicts history of Pontiac

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Kate Aley

"At the Crossroads", an eight-foot tall obelisk, was officially dedicated at the Luskville Community Centre on Saturday, October 7. Each side of the monument is symbolic of the municipality’s history, showing aspects of local geology and biology, as well as the lives of First Nations people and European settlers.  

Sculpture to be unveiled this Saturday

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Kate Aley

I was lucky enough to be at the Town Hall when our new sculpture was being installed. I was determined not to take a picture of its exquisite beauty so as to not spoil the effect of its unveiling on Saturday 7th October at 1 pm.

Spoiler alert.

Culture Days exhibit the creative life

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Kate Aley

Since 1996, the Journé​es de la Culture (Culture Days) have presented admission-free creative activities which are open to all. Two local artists opened their studios to the public on September 29, 30 and October 1 in order to promote greater access to arts and culture.

Discover your creativity with free art lessons for the MoP

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Kate Aley

Print-making, collage, basketry anyone? The Municipality of Pontiac has funded nine free art lessons in Luskville, Quyon and Breckenridge to sate your artistic appetite this fall. Five teachers from local group Get Art will be teaching a variety of creative skills in three hour lessons over three Saturday afternoons in October. The classes are free and all materials and tools are provided.

The farm gate is open at the UPA Open Door event

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Kate Aley

Both country folk and city slickers came out for the 15th edition of the L'Union Producteur Agricole (UPA) Open Doors event on Sept 10. Luskville's La Riveraine, the only site within the Municipality of Pontiac, welcomed well over 100 visitors. They were able to tour the farm which dates from 1905, enjoying old machinery, tiny ponies and proud peahens, not to mention sampling some delicious pancakes.

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