Xinyi Proposed Floating Glass Plant: Guelph Eramosa Township (GET)

An update from the Council of Canadians Guelph, ON Chapter

The GET council voted 4-1 to uphold its current bylaw which allows only dry use industrial businesses to locate in the township.

Guelph Eramosa Township council voted on Monday July 16th to uphold its own bylaw which allows only dry use industrial businesses to locate in the township.  Dry use means:  Dry industries are those which do not use water or other liquids in any industrial process.

Xinyi Canada declined to comment on the outcome of the council decision.

A victory for the residents and farmers of Guelph Eramosa Township and for the residents of Guelph, whose water would be put at risk if this facility were ever built. BUT the devil is always in the detail, bylaws can be overturned by the new Ontario Municipal board (LPAT) and the newly elected Ford Administration in the province. Upholding the township’s bylaw has given residents some breathing space for the next phase. 

So how did a large multinational glass making company decide to locate in GET?

The province of Ontario as part of it’s trade visit to China in 2017 invited Xinyi, a China/Hong Kong based glass manufacturing company with a subsidiary Xinyi Canada, to Ontario. The invite was also supported by the County of Wellington.  Xinyi decided to site its new floating glass factory in Guelph Eramosa Township (GET), a rural township of some 12,000 souls that surrounds the city of Guelph. It is predominately a farming community with residential pockets and some dry industrial use. Xinyi put in an offer on a farm that was for sale in the township and then went to the GET council saying that it would like to build a factory, and provide up to 400 jobs for the area.

THEN, it explained that the factory would need some amendments to the current township bylaws:

  • 1.6 million litres of water each day and would need to dig a well 600 feet deep to take water from the deep aquifer.
  • It would need to keep it’s 1,600 degree centigrade furnace in operation 365 days a year, as turning it off would mean a shutdown of production of 6-9 months.
  • Xinyi would need to have the water take guaranteed regardless of drought conditions in the Grand River Watershed.
  • Xinyi would need to build a 300 foot smoke stack to dispel  fumes created by the glass manufacturing process.(mainly nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide).

A small residents group in GET read about the proposed factory and began to be worried about how the proposed industrial water taking would affect their wells and drinking water supply and started to do some citizen research. What they learned shifted them into high gear and GET CONCERNED was created and they began to organize. The group asked Council of Canadians Guelph chapter and Wellington Water Watchers to join them as allies.

Guelph Eramosa Township residents are entirely dependent on well water, there is NO water infrastructure system in this rural township. Most wells are 60 – 100 feet deep and are maintained by the owners.

On May 9 2018 the CAO of the City of Guelph, Derrick Thomson wrote to the township saying "Any new water takings within this area would be considered a significant drinking water threat and present a potential risk to the City’s water supply system,"

Guelph is one of the few municipalities left in Canada that relies entirely on ground water to provide for the drinking water needs of its population. Guelph has been designated as a Places to Grow by the province of Ontario and anticipates welcoming some 65,000 new residents, along with new businesses in the next 20 or so years. Protecting our water for our current and growing population is a priority for this city.

Guelph and Guelph Eramosa Township are located in the Grand River Watershed and our water needs are fed by a narrow aquifer that runs from Georgian Bay (Lake Huron) down to Lake Erie. We are blessed with wonderful clean water provided by that aquifer. It is the reason that the international corporation Nestlé, has aggressively courted this small township in the watershed to mine the aquifer for water which is then put in plastic bottles and sold around the world – we have had sightings of our water in Nestle bottles in Tokyo, Mexico and the middle east. It is also the reason why Xinyi has chosen to locate here. The manufacture of floating glass (it is tough and of uniform thickness, used by automotive manufacturers and others).

The fight to protect the drinking water of our aquifer has only just begun, sadly this is not a private trouble of the Grand river watershed – it’s an issue that affects every community – it’s the one thing that humans cannot do without….clean, drinkable water.

We are proud to announce that International Water Warrior and Honorary Chair of the council of Canadians, Maude Barlow will be in Guelph on September 12th, 2018

Maude will be coming to speak especially to the citizens of Guelph, Guelph-Eramosa Township and Wellington County about the looming water crisis posed by increased corporate water taking in the Guelph-Wellington area Maude Barlow says, “This is a line in the sand for the residents of Wellington County and the whole Grand River watershed”

GET Concerned, Council of Canadians and Wellington Water Watchers are working collaboratively on this issue and will send out regular updates as things unfold.

For more information:  Ron East, Chair Council of Canadians Guelph Chapter reast@uoguelph.ca

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