Welcome to Foothills County


Hazard Lands

Hazard Lands are defined in MDP2010 as:

Lands which may be prone to flooding, shoreline erosion or slope instability hazards or any hazard that may result in life loss or injury, property damage, social and economic disruption or environmental degradation. Hazards may include surface and subsurface features such as active and abandoned gas/oil wells, mines, unstable slopes, areas exhibiting subsidence and other natural or man-made features.


Information regarding some common examples of hazards can be found below below:


Fire Hazard Lands

All new development shall be sited taking into consideration the fire hazard severity of the site, the type of development and the risk added by the development to the fire hazard risk. Where feasible, areas of extreme high risk should be avoided for development except agricultural and open space uses. When development does occur in areas with a higher fire hazard risk, special attention will be paid to site design particulaly for access and egress and the provision of adequate areas for staging fire fighting.

A good resource for information regarding planning for fire safety is the manual "FireSmart: Protecting Your Community From Wildfire" which was produced by Partners in Protection, an Alberta-based coalition of professionals representing national, provincial, and municipal associations and government agencies responsible for emergency services, land-use planning, and forest/park management and research.

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Flood Risk Areas

The "flood risk area" is the area that would be inundated by the "design flood". In Alberta, the design flood is a 1 in 100 year flood, or one that has a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any year. Within North America, the 1 in 100 year flood frequency is generally accepted to be the minimum standard for flood protection.

Within the flood risk area there are two zones: the floodway and the flood fringe. Floodway waters are usually associated with the channel and are the deepest, fastest, and most destructive. As a guideline, floodway water is deeper than 1 metre and/or has velocities greater than 1 metre per second. Water in the flood fringe area is shallower and moves more slowly.

To mitigate potential flood hazard to residential development in the County, the current Foothills County Land Use Bylaw states that:

  • All proposed new lots shall have an acceptable principal building site above the 1 in 100 year flood plain, and
  • On existing registered lots, development may be allowed within the 1 in 100 year flood plain provided that:
    • the developer or registered owner agrees in writing to indemnify the Municipality for any damage to or loss of the development caused by flooding or subsidence;
    • the mechanical and electrical equipment is located above the 1 in 100 year flood elevation.

In such cases, in order to evaluate the appropriate setbacks the may ask an applicant hire a professional engineer whose area of competence lies in the river engineering field to prepare a Full Flood Assessment Report. At the very least the Municipality as the subdivision authority is entitled to ask for environmental information on flood prone subdivision applications. According to subsection 4(5)(d) of the Subdivision and Development Regulation, of the Municipal Government Act, the subdivision authority may require an applicant for subdivision to submit a map showing the 1:100 year flood if the site is located in a potential floodplain and floodplain mapping is available.

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Foothills Regional Landfill Site

The Foothills Regional Landfill Site is located on Highway #783 (16th St. E) 5.5 km south of Highway #7. It is managed through the Foothills Regional Services Commission which consists of the following Member Municipalities:

  • Foothills County
  • Town of High River
  • Town of Black Diamond
  • Town of Turner Valley
  • Town of Okotoks
  • Town of Nanton

The Following information on possible health hazards associated with landfill sites is from the Ohio Department of Health - Bureau of Environmental Health:

Under the right set of environmental conditions, landfill gas can be a potential health hazard to nearby residents. It should be noted that a person must be exposed to sufficiently high concentrations of chemicals over an extended period of time (years) in order for these health effects to occur.

To mitigate the risk to the public, the Foothills County Land Use Bylaw states that dwellings shall not be located within 450 meters of the working area or 300m of the disposal area of a sanitary landfill.

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Historical Landfill sites

According to Alberta Environment's website, a landfill is a site for disposal of waste in or on the ground by burial. Landfilling is the most common method to dispose of waste in Alberta.
The Standards for Landfills in Alberta (Feb 2010) outline the minimum requirements for development, operation, monitoring, closure and post-closure of all types of landfills. The Standards are intended to provide public assurance regarding the protection of groundwater and surface water, and the appropriate management of nuisances associated with landfill development.

It should be noted though, that in the past it was not uncommon for rural landowners to have their own on-site dump. These dump sites were not regulated or monitored and were used for all manner of refuse, in some cases this included pesticides, paint, batteries or other potentially hazardous materials.
In addition to the hazards posed by chemicals etc, if structures are built over landfills, they may have subsidence problems or be at risk of fire from landfill gas, which can contain high concentrations of methane.

If a property that is the subject of a subdivision or development application is suspected of containing a dump site, a level one environmental site assessment may be required by Council before a decision can be made on the application.

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Intensive Livestock Operations

Foothills County Land Use Bylaw defines an Intensive Livestock Operation (ILO) as:
the concentrated rearing or confinement of livestock other than poultry or swine, at densities greater than one (1) animal unit per three (3) acres.

What constitutes one animal unit is laid out in the Foothills County Land Use Bylaw in Section 10.13.1 "agricultural definitions". This information is also contained in a handout entitled "Animals in the MD of Foothills" to view a pdf version of the handout click here.


Confined Feeding Operation

One type of ILO is a Confined Feeding Operation (CFO). According to the Province of Alberta department of Agriculture and Rural Development, a CFO is defined as a fenced or enclosed land or buildings where livestock are confined for the purposes of growing, sustaining, finishing or breeding by means other than grazing, and any other building or structure directly related to that purpose. Backgrounding operations that meet the threshold animal numbers are also considered to be CFOs.

In January 2002, under Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA), the Province assumed responsibility for issuing permits for confined feeding operations (CFOs) and for setting and enforcing manure management standards. AOPA and its three associated regulations establish province-wide permitting requirements and standards for all agricultural operations that handle manure.
The following environmental or health concerns have been identified by landowners in proximity to Intensive Livestock Operations/ Confined feeding Operations:

  • surface water quality deterioration from spills and manure runoff
  • groundwater quality deterioration from over-application of manure
  • groundwater quantity being depleted by watering livestock
  • odor nuisance from large barns or pens and manure storage and spreading


While these may only be perceived issues, it is important to recognize the potential for land use conflicts when intensive livestock operations are located near residential development or other human oriented land uses.

Alberta Environment suggests in the Environmental Reference Manual for the Review of Subdivision in Alberta, that if a human oriented development (commercial, food establishment, institutional use, recreational use or residential development) is located within 1.5 km of an intensive livestock operation, that an adequate setback buffer should be established to mitigate conflicts associated with public health, safety or quality of life.

Minimum Distance Separation (MDS)

The MDS is a setback established between a CFO facility and the neighbouring residences that are in existence at the time the application is submitted. Its purpose is to minimize the impact of odour. It is measured from the outside walls of neighbouring residences to the point closest to the CFO's manure storage facilities or manure collection areas.


Each operation has its own MDS that is determined by various characteristics or factors of the operation. These factors are assigned values from which an operation's MDS is calculated. The MDS is calculated by the approval officer when the Part 1 application is submitted. Details on calculating the MDS can be found in Schedule 1 of the Standards and Administration Regulation. More information on Intensive Livestock Operations can be found in the Agricultural Operation Practices Act or the 2008 Agricultural Operation Practices Act Reference Guide that can be found on Alberta Environment's website.


Policies from MDP2010

MDP 2010 contains policy that impacts confined feeding operations (CFO's) in the County:


Policy 8. Ensure that each confined feeding operation (CFO) meets the minimum distance separation (MDS).

Policy 9. Encourage each CFO to own the land included within the MDS.

Policy 10. Ensure that the CFO and the MDS does not fall within a minimum of:

  • 3.2 km (2 miles) of any urban municipality or hamlet and does not encroach into any intermunicipal development plan boundaries;
  • 0.8 km (1/2 mile) of a neighbouring dwelling.

Policy 11. CFOs should be located in an area where there will be minimal conflict with existing land uses and must take into consideration future expansion areas when looking at surrounding land uses.

Polcy 12. Other uses and subdivisions shall be discouraged within the MDS of an existing CFO.

Policy 13. Encourage CFOs on parcels of 160 acres or more.

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Sour Gas and other oil and gas facilities

Oil and gas facilities, in particular sour gas facilities (wells or pipelines) may pose a threat to the general public. In the case of sour gas, this threat can be very serious. For this reason the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has established development setbacks in order to reduce the risk posed to the public to an acceptable level.

A detailed explanation of these setbacks and how they are determined can be found at the ERCB's website in EnerFAQ #5 - Explaining ERCB Setbacks.

If a proposed subdivision or development is near a gas or oil well, battery, a gas processing plant, or a pipeline, there are guidelines that dictate if the application needs to be referred to the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (AEUB).

The recommended minimum setbacks for a single building are as follows:

  • No proposed building site should be within the right-of-way of a sweet or Level 1 sour pipeline
  • No proposed building site should be within 100 metres (~ 325 feet) of a Level 2, 3 or 4 sour gas facility (pipeline, battery or gas processing plant)
  • No proposed building site should be within 100 metres (~ 325 feet) of the head of a well (non abandoned).


The ERCB will provide developers with a "Land Development Information Package" for a small fee. This package gives general information about development setbacks as well as information specific to the area surrounding the proposed development including:

  • EUB licensed well information (including a separate listing of sour wells),
  • Pipeline plats showing the approximate location of EUB licensed pipelines. When EUB pipeline plats are provided, also included is the EUB's pipeline licence register,
  • Battery information, and
  • Coal mine information.

For a full description of how to order, see the ERCB website.


Wastewater Systems

Wastewater System means *a system for collecting, treating and disposing of wastewater and includes:

  1. sewers and pumping stations that make up a wastewater collection system,
  2. sewers and pumping stations that transport untreated wastewater from a wastewater collection system to a wastewater treatment plant,
  3. wastewater treatment plants,
  4. facilities that provide storage for treated wastewater,
  5. wastewater sludge treatment and disposal facilities,
  6. sewers that transport treated wastewater from a wastewater treatment plant to the place where it is disposed of, and
  7. treated wastewater outfall facilities, including the outfall structures to a watercourse or any appurtenances for disposal of treated wastewater to land or to wetlands;

*(Definition c.f. Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act)


Wastewater Treatment Plants

The term "wastewater treatment plant" refers to any structure or thing used for physical, chemical, biological or radiological treatment of municipal wastewater, and includes wastewater storage facilities and sludge treatment, storage and disposal facilities. (Definition 1(t) of the Wastewater and Storm Drainage Regulation 119/93 of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.).

Wastewater treatment plants have an associated development setback that is defined by the Subdivision and Development Regulation of the Municipal Government Act:

"A development authority must not issue a development permit for a school, hospital, food establishment or residential building within 300 metres of the working area of an operating wastewater treatment plant nor may a residential building be constructed within 300 metres of the working area of an operating waste water treatment plant."

Likewise a 300m setback from wastewater lagoons to residential buildings is also referenced in the Standards and Guidelines For Municipal Waterworks, Wastewater and Storm Drainage Systems (January 2006). The following table is taken from these standards:


Minimum setback distance (m) from the "working area"
of the wastewater lagoon to:
The property line of the land where the lagoon is located 30
The designated right-of-way of a rural road or railway 30
The designated right-of-way of a primary or secondary highway 100
An "Occupied Building" where the lagoon serves a designated municipality 300
Any "Occupied Building" on the property of a privately owned rural development which the lagoon serves 300

* "Occupied building" means a building within which one or more persons reside, work or are
served for four or more hours a day; and two or more days a week; and eight or more weeks a
year. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, this includes such developments as school,
hospital, food establishment, residences, etc.
** "Working area," means, those areas of a parcel of land that are currently being used or will be
used for the processing of wastewater.

These requirements may be varied by a subdivision authority or a development authority with the written consent of the Deputy Minister of Environment.


Private Wastewater Systems

Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has produced a set of guidelines for Environmental Management called: Beneficial Management Practices: Environmental Manual for Alberta Farmsteads. In this manual, they describe the typical rural wastewater system as follows:

Almost all farm homes use private sewage treatment systems, which collect, treat and dispose of treated wastewater from a single source in the same location that it is generated. The most common type of on-site sewage system is a septic system, which includes a holding tank where bacteria decompose waste products into effluent, indigestible solids and gases. The effluent is discharged on-site, while the undigested solids remain in the tank to be pumped out on a regular basis.

These systems are usually economical and reliable, but they must be properly maintained to handle all the wastewater produced. The system must also treat the wastewater to prevent further surface water and groundwater contamination since it may contain bacteria, infectious viruses, household chemicals and excess nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates.

When siting a sewage system the following should be considered:

  • Stormwater run-off should be directed away from the disposal area
  • Sewage effluent should be discharged away from a water bodies or vegetable gardens
  • Ensure distances from buildings, dwellings, property lines, water sources and water bodies follow what is outlined in the Alberta Private Sewage Systems Standard of Practice, published by the Safety Code Council.

Some of the specific items outlined in the Standards of Practice are as follows:

Section Owner's Responsibility
The owner of an on-site wastewater treatment system shall ensure that the system
a) is maintained,
b) is operated within the design parameters of the system, and
c) effectively treats the wastewater

Section Separation from Specific Surface Waters
The soil-based treatment component of an on-site wastewater treatment system shall be located not less than 90m (300ft) from the shore of a
a) lake,
b) river,
c) stream, or
d) creek

Section Prohibited Discharge Locations
Wastewater or effluent shall not be discharged
a) into a well, abandoned well, aquifer, or water supply,
b) into and surface body of water such as, but not limited to, a lake, river, creek, stream, natural wetland or constructed aqua-scape/ water feature,
c) onto any vegetable garden, or
d) into any other system or location not consistent with the designs provided under this Standard.

Septic tanks may present serious hazards including septic cave-in's or collapses, methane gas explosion hazards, and asphyxiation hazards. Abandoned septic tanks, if they are present on a property may collapse or can hamper construction if they happen to be located where one wishes to build.

Section Septic Tank Separation Distances
Septic Tanks shall not be located within
a) 10 m (33 ft.) from a water source,
b) 10 m (33 ft.) from a water course,
c) 1 m (3.25 ft.) from a property line, and
d) 1m (3.25 ft.) from a building.

Section General
A septic tank shall be approved equipment that has been certified by an accredited testing agency as meeting or exceeding the requirements of CAN/CSA-B66, "Design, Material, and Manufacturing Requirements for Prefabricated septic Tanks and Sewage Holding Tanks."