STEP 2: Persons or groups to be included when registering a complaint
You should consider contacting at least the first two, and possibly all four of the individuals or organizations listed below once you have recorded sound level measurements in excess of the legal limit. It probably depends how bad the noise levels are! If you anticipate having to make a lot of complaints based on your past experiences, try to set up a convenient way of recording key bits of information and summaries of conversations. It is very easy to forget the details of what was discussed, phone numbers used, whom you talked to, and on what day the call was made or an email sent. Try to keep all the bits of paper in a folder, or use a diary. Keeping an accurate paper trail is very important – if possible use email messages to confirm what was discussed in phone calls, meetings, or to record with the recipient that you have sent complaint letters. Also consider forwarding key emails to all parties you are including in your complaint process.
1. The Aggregate Operator
Always begin the complaint process by contacting the person responsible for running the aggregate operation. Start to create the paper trail. Tell the aggregate operator that you are sending a formal letter of complaint to him at the head office of his company. You may want to send it by registered mail. (To be really thorough you may want to mail a copy of the letter to yourself at the same time.) Some aggregate operators do not keep records of complaints if they are given orally or by phone. If the operator agrees to control the noise levels, allow a day or two for moving of equipment, etc., and follow up with a thankyou call (even a letter) if appropriate. Remember to record details of every phone call. If the initial call and complaint letter does not result in reducing the noise to within the legal limits, the formal complaint process begins. Call the aggregate operator to tell him/her that you are going to register a formal complaint with the MNR/MOE. It is important to do this step. When you first contact the government officials at the MNR/MOE to register your complaint, they always ask if you have contacted the aggregate operator to complain about the excess noise.
2. Ministry of Natural Resources or Ministry of the Environment
Next send your formal written complaint letter to the appropriate ministry. Realize that the complaint process may take a long time to move to completion, unless the MNR/MOE has already received and responded to complaints from other residents about the same aggregate operator. If the aggregate operator has a bad reputation for noise control, the complaint may be responded to reasonably quickly.
a) Determine which ministry (MNR or MOE) is to receive the complaint letter
Because noise complaints normally move through the process very slowly it is important to make sure the first letter of complaint is sent to the correct government ministry. For all complaints about noise from aggregate operations the letter of complaint is sent to either the MNR or the MOE. Where the aggregate operation is located in Ontario determines whether you send the letter of complaint to the MNR or MOE. Ontario is basically divided into two geographic groupings. Southern, Central, and Eastern parts of Ontario and some parts of Northern Ontario are termed “designated” areas of the province. Aggregate resources in these designated areas are administered by the MNR under the terms defined in the Ontario Aggregate Resources Act (ARA). All the rest of the province is termed “undesignated” and aggregate resources in these areas are administered by the MOE and are not subject to the regulations of the ARA. Refer to the map entitled “Areas Designated Under the Aggregate Resources Act” to decide whether the aggregate operation causing the excess noise is in a designated part of Ontario (send letter to the MNR) or the undesignated part (send the letter to the MOE).
If you want to be able to follow up on the different stages that your complaint goes through, you can do so by referring to “Explanation of the document Protocol to Address Environmental Complaints Regarding Pit and Quarry Operations in the Province of Ontario Between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ministry of the Environment”.
The “Protocol” was created to help both ministries work together as efficiently as possible when responding to various kinds of complaints related to environmental problems. It is a complicated set of procedures, but knowing the process, even if only for following your noise complaint, will help you retain your sanity. Another advantage is that the MNR/MOE officials will know that you are aware of the process and are following up on each stage.
b) Identify which official to call at the appropriate ministry
If the aggregate operation producing the illegal noise is in a designated area of Ontario, refer to the list of MNR officials who administer each of the “districts” at “MNR web site” to identify the name and address you require. Before you send off the complaint letter it is a good idea to phone the person concerned to inform him/her that a complaint is on the way and to check if there have been any personnel changes since the last update of the MNR web site. Record the details of the phone call. Send an email confirming what you discussed in the phone call.
If the aggregate operation producing the illegal noise is in a non-designated area of Ontario, refer to the list of MOE officials who administer each of the “districts” at “MOE web site” to identify the name and address you require. Before you send off the complaint letter it is a good idea to phone the person concerned to inform him/her that a complaint is on the way and to check if there have been any personnel changes since the last update of the MNR web site. Record the details of the phone call. Send an email confirming what you discussed in the phone call.
3. Mayor and Councillors of the Township or Municipality
Local township councillors and the mayor are useful contacts, especially if you anticipate that the noise problem may not be easily resolved. Although township/municipal officials change with elections it might be worthwhile to begin developing a record of the aggregate operator’s activities in the form of a series of complaint letters to the township. If several other members of the rural community can also be persuaded to submit similar letters of complaint it will be difficult for the aggregate operator to suggest that your complaints should be ignored. Although these officials have no legal powers they do have some influence in terms of defining certain aspects of contracts awarded for the purchase of aggregates used in the township. They also talk to officials in nearby townships, and it is the very rare aggregate operator who doesn’t care about his reputation in the community in which he operates. Road superintendents may be able to place some limits on truck routes.
Record the details of any phone calls. Send emails confirming what you discussed in each phone call if possible.
4. Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP)You may also consider writing a letter of complaint to your local Member of Provincial Parliament. As usual, the larger the number of neighbours complaining, the better.