Napanee Beaver July 18 – ‘Groups Seek Law Change’

July 30 | Posted by Jeff | News, The Leaky Land Blog

021MOE urged to ban new landfills on fractured bedrock by Seth Duchene

Opponents of the proposed Beechwood Road Environmental Centre west of Napanee are looking for a legislative solution to their ongoing fight with Waste Management.
Last week, the Concerned Citizens of Tyendinaga and Environs along with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte announced that they would be asking the Ontario Environmental Commissioner to call on the Ministry of Environment to review and rewrite the laws relating to the siting of new landfills.
With the support of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, the groups are seeking to prohibit new landfills from being situated on fractured bedrock; further, they would like the MOE to prevent applicants from resubmitting environmental assessments for projects after similar projects have been denied — a change the landfill opponents have dubbed a ‘no means no’ provision.
Specifically, the groups have jointly filed an application for review under the Environmental Bill of Rights with the Environmental Commissioner, focussing on Section 27 of the Environmental Protection Act, which regulates the siting and operation of landfills.
WM is currently preparing an environmental assessment for the BREC, one component of which is a new landfill site which would accept approximately 400,000 tonnes of waste per year for the next 20 years.
In 2006, the MOE denied a WM application to expand the Richmond Landfill site, following considerable resistance from local community groups. Since then the Richmond Landfill has ceased operating, although it is now at the centre of an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing relating to the site’s closure plan, and specifically the discovery and remediation of off-site impacts near the 60-year-old landfill on Beechwood Road.
“In our view, the science is clear: fractured bedrock aquifers are complex, vulnerable to contamination, difficult to monitor and virtually impossible to clean up if contaminated,” said Mike Bossio, chair of the CCCTE in a press release issued last Thursday. “For example, the Richmond Landfill was built in a fractured bedrock setting, and now the MOE has found that the landfill has impacted groundwater at and beyond the landfill boundaries.”
The opposition groups also note that prohibitions of new landfills have been established elsewhere in Ontario, specifically in the Niagara Escarpment Plan Area or within natural or man-made lakes (including former mines and quarries); they also say that other provinces and U.S. states have banned new landfill sites from being created over fractured bedrock. “Over the decades, CELA has represented concerned citizens across the province in a number of cases involving proposed landfills at inherently unsuitable fractured bedrock locations,” said CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren. “It is time for Ontario to catch up with other jurisdictions in Canada in the U.S, which preclude siting landfills on fractured bedrock. Since the MOE’s own policies caution against landfills on fractured bedrock, it is long overdue to amend the EPA to reflect this appropriate and precautionary safeguard.”
In a telephone interview earlier this week, Bossio said that, if the CCCTE and other opposition groups are successful in seeing this change in legislation enacted, it would make approval of the proposed BREC all but an impossibility. “If (the MOE does) go ahead with the review… and pass legislation to change the act so that landfills can’t be built on fractured limestone, pretty much in and of itself, I think it would be very difficult for the MOE to then say ‘but it’s OK to go ahead with the BREC,’” said Bossio. “Even if WM does get their EA in prior to the legislation being changed, it stands to reason that (the MOE) rejected it once because of issues around contamination and environmental risk, how are you going to turn around and OK an EA when you’ve already passed legislation to say that it isn’t a good idea to build landfills on fractured limestone?”
Bossio also said that if the groups’ suggested changes are adopted, it will mean their fight WM is finally over. “It really behooves the MOE to step forward and finally settle this issue about where to locate dumps, for everybody’s sake,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to see another community go though what we’ve gone through for 15 years. It’s not right, it’s not fair, to (impose) that kind of burden.”
Randy Harris, manager of the BREC and the closed Richmond Landfill site, suggested that the changes proposed by the opposition groups are redundant in that WM still has to prove through its EA that its proposed new landfill will meet current environmental standards. Further, he said that as long as those environmental standards are met, there will be no risk to groundwater around the new landfill.
“If you follow the new regulations, it protects the environment in this type of geology. The BREC intends to meet or exceed today’s regulations, and they do protect the environment,” he said. “It has to be (able to be monitored) and it has to meet present-day regulations. You don’t have to worry about the geology if you do it by regulation.”
He said that the BREC would include a state-of-the-art liner and leachate collection system — something which is absent in old landfills around the province. “They continuously want to put out some kind of projection that modern landfills are still done like in the old days, where you put the garbage right on the rock in an old quarry or something,” he said. “There are rigorous liner systems and regulations and engineering that protect the ground water, that we’ll have to meet. It’s not like dumps in the old days.”
Harris also said that shipping garbage long distances is not environmentally friendly. “The most environmentally correct thing to do is to handle your waste close to the source,” he said. “We have to handle our waste. We can’t keep shipping it away, out of the country, hoping it will go away. It can be done right with these modern liners and these modern regulations.”
Under the EBR, the Environmental Commissioner will forward a copy of the application for review to the MOE, which administers the EPA. The ministry will have 60 days to decide whether the requested review will be conducted by ministry staff.
“You just don’t build dumps on fractured limestone, and I think it’s high time that the MOE finally put that issue to rest — not just for us but for all the other communities out there that are going to be dealing with this sort of issue,” said Bossio.

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