Napanee Beaver reports on Environmental Review Tribunal April 18, 2013

April 22 | Posted by Jeff | News, Uncategorized

DumpSignDespite agreement, landfill fight goes on
Concerned groups point to offsite results in demanding BREC be abandoned

By Seth DuChene

Any impression that Waste Management and its critics were close to finding some common ground on the now-closed Richmond Landfill and the proposed Beechwood Road Environmental Centre following the results of a preliminary Environmental Review Tribunal hearing on Friday were quickly dashed on Monday.
On Friday, the ERT consented to passing an ‘interim order’ relating to the closure conditions of the Richmond Landfill, following months of negotiation between WM, the Ministry of the Environment and various concerned citizens and other groups. The order effectively takes a number of matters in dispute regarding WM’s closure plan — a plan which is still the subject of an appeal to ERT by the Concerned Citizens Committee of Tyendinaga and Environs, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and others — off the table.
On Monday, however, the CCCTE reiterated the fact that a handful of other outstanding concerns remain regarding the closure plan; further, the group argued that the findings stemming from the ERT process demonstrate that plans for the proposed BREC facility — which would feature a landfill roughly four times the size of the current facility — should be abandoned immediately.
Central to the CCCTE’s demand that BREC be abandoned is the fact that testing results have shown that landfill leachate has impacted groundwater off the landfill property, results which came to light during ERT discussions. Also, an earlier proposal to expand the Richmond Landfill was rejected by the MOE in 2006 due to environmental concerns.
“In my opinion, the BREC landfill proposal is inappropriate, it’s unacceptable and it’s contrary to the public interest,” said CCCTE lawyer Richard Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “The BREC proposal makes no environmental sense, and it should not be approved or pursued at all, especially since WM already has one landfill site that is impacting groundwater. We don’t need another one right next door.”
Lindgren’s sentiments were echoed by the CCCTE’s hydrogeologist Wilf Ruland. “Essentially, this was simply the wrong place to put a landfill,” he said. “There are much better settings around the province, and it would behoove the company to draw the obvious lessons from the misadventure with the Richmond Landfill and abandon its efforts to put a new, bigger landfill right next door.”
Ruland said the offsite contamination was a “major problem” that has yet to be resolved. “The extent of the offsite contamination is currently not known, and it’s going to be hard to track it down… because we’re in this fractured bedrock setting,” he said. “You can drill a well very close to where contamination is moving, a few metres way, and yet not find it. The contamination is moving down discreet fractures in the bedrock, and if you don’t hit the fracture that the contamination is moving down, then you’ve missed it. There’s lots more work needed to try to find out how far the contamination has gone.”
Randy Harris, manager of Waste Management’s Richmond Landfill, said that the company had no plans to drop the BREC project, stating that the ongoing environmental assessment will investigate all concerns relating to the project.
“We’re in the middle of a very extensive environmental assessment for BREC right now. The information that we’ll gather will be presented to the general public and discussed, and any concerns or questions will be answered at public meetings or in private if they’d prefer. Then we’ll submit that, when it’s completed, to the Ministry of the Environment to determine its technical merit,” he said.
Harris also said that the offsite testing results are being addressed. “There are some elevated aesthetic parameters in a (neighbouring) property and we found them. We found them because we had done a lot of work in finding the ‘low head’ for the groundwater and where the groundwater flows,” he said. “We’re putting in additional wells. If anything, we’re showing that (the groundwater) can be monitored.”
Later, he said, “There is going to be a lot of discussion… and we look forward to that discussion. There is a lot of history with modern-day liners and technical discussions that exactly address those concerns. I hope these folks… take part in those discussions. It will be up to us to show them and the ministry that the groundwater will be protected with these types of liners, along with a monitoring program. Those discussions are coming up and we’re looking forward to them.”
Lindgren said that if WM continues to proceed with the BREC environmental assessment, the company can expect a fight. “If they want to keep that train wreck in motion, fine, that’s their choice,” Lindgren said at the press conference. “I guess I put them on notice that we intend to drop the gloves and we’ll pummel the documents until we get the result we’re looking for, which is another rejection of the same dumb landfilling idea at the same dumb site.”
Monday’s press conference contrasted sharply with Friday’s preliminary hearing, which was focussed on issues in which the two sides were in agreement rather than at loggerheads. With Friday’s hearing, WM, the MOE, the CCCTE and others were able to reach agreements on some outstanding issues relating to the assessment and maintenance of monitoring wells; a new and extensive odour monitoring program; expanded testing parameters for potential leachate contamination; and a new and expanded public notification system should an event occur at the site.
All these issues were part of the CCCTE’s appeal of the Richmond Landfill closure plan. With an interim order issued by the ERT, however, the new provisions have been added to the plan and are no longer in dispute.
At the preliminary hearing, Lindgren says the hearing — expected in October, if there is one needed at all — will be focused on “the contents of the site’s environmental monitoring plan, and the nature and extent of the contingency measures that might be at this particular site.”
The parties are expected to continue to hold discussions regarding the outstanding issues between now and the fall. The provisions set out in the interim order should come into force within the next few weeks.
Representatives from the CCCTE on Monday argued that many of those now-agreed-upon provisions and protocols should have been in place much earlier.
“What we’re talking about is a whole series of ongoing investigations that need to be undertaken, that should have been undertaken a decade or more ago. We’re basically playing catch-up work, trying to bring this site into the modern day and the hydrogeological understanding up to the modern day,” said Ruland of the old Richmond Landfill site.
“Let’s not forget that for 15 years we’ve been making recommendations to deaf ears, and we had to drag them kicking and screaming to this ERT to finally get them to sit down and seriously consider the recommendations that Wilf and Richard and many of us in this room have been making for a very long time,” said Mike Bossio, chair of the CCCTE. “Whatever way WM wants to try to position this, the fact of the matter is that they’ve done everything they can to not find leachate on this site. Now we’re going to force them to be accountable and do everything possible to find it, to find it and try to figure out what to do about it.”
“There are going to be questions on BREC,” said Harris immediately following Friday’s hearing. “The BREC project includes a state-of-the-art, 21st Century landfill, engineered properly, and there are going to be questions on that. Instead of doing this in the press, saying, ‘It can’t be done safely or monitored safely,’ I challenge (the CCCTE and others) to come and sit down at the table, just like we did with the closed Richmond Landfill, and have technical discussions. If there are ways to improve on the liner design or the monitoring, or doubts, let’s have that discussion.”

Tell us what YOU think ...