Napanee Beaver Editorial – July 18, 2013 ‘Landfill debate fast-track’

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

Fractured Bedrock - 2Last week, opponents to the proposed Beechwood Road Environmental Centre appealed to the Ministry of the Environment, through the Ontario Environmental Commissioner, to change the laws relating to the siting of new landfills. The alterations they’d like to see is a prohibition of new landfills on areas underlaid by fractured bedrock, and a ‘no means no’ provision. Such a provision would prevent a landfill proponent from seeking approval for a new landfill after a similar proposal at the same site had been previously denied for hydrogeological reasons. (For example, the groups’ stipulation, had it been on the books, would have meant that after the Richmond Landfill expansion was denied in 2006, Waste Management’s BREC landfill proposal would presumably have never seen the light of day.)
Although the petition for a change to Ontario’s landfill siting is a new twist in this long saga, the arguments behind it cut to the core of debate surrounding the former Richmond landfill expansion, and now the BREC landfill proposal. Boiled down, it’s this: WM says that it can ‘understand’ the complex geology underneath the site, and that its state-of-the-art liner and leachate collection systems will ensure their landfill won’t impact the surrounding environment per stringent MOE specifications; meanwhile, the opponents contend that the site is fundamentally unsuitable for a landfill because no liner system is foolproof, and failure of said system will cause contamination of groundwater that is difficult, if not impossible, to remediate. Further, having made that argument successfully once, it shouldn’t have to be made again.
Ultimately, we hope that the MOE takes the landfill foes up on their offer. Some clarity in this ongoing debate would be sorely welcome. As the groups point out in their submission to the Environmental Commissioner, “Ontario’s current landfill standards tend to focus on how landfills are to be built, rather than where they should (or should not) be located.” WM says how its landfill will be built and maintained will answer the risks associated with where it is. However, even the MOE sees limitations in the ‘how’, since they’ve specified areas where they cannot be — the Niagara Escarpment Plan and in old mines and quarries. This begs a few questions: if engineered landfills can’t be sited in vulnerable places like these, why can they be sited in hydrogeologically vulnerable places like Beechwood Road? If the technology isn’t good enough there, why is it (potentially) good enough here?
We’re not sure whether the concerned citizens et al will be successful in getting the environment ministry have a closer look at their legislation, or if the effort will have an impact on the BREC proposal which is currently being contemplated. One way or another — through this filing or through the BREC environmental assessment — we will get clarity.
And if it’s ‘no’ to the BREC, let it be a permanent ‘no’, and let’s all move on.

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