After four years of an extended Terms of Reference process during which residents of Oxford and their allies resisted vigorously any notion of a dump, the Minister of the Environment, Mr. Glen Murray, has ordered that an Environmental Assessment should happen. Additionally, beyond the requirements of a regular Environmental Assessment, he has added an additional 15 stringent conditions. In the Legislature, he has noted that by “cumulative effects” he has meant human health concerns as well.
While disappointed that the Minister has not seen fit in light of the wealth of science and social concerns presented to him to deny the dump at the Terms of Reference phase, OPAL believes, and concurs with the opinion of its lawyer, a member of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, that this in no way means an approval for the dump. In fact, the weight of science has already told us that dumps leak and cannot provide the guarantee of safe water which the Minister is demanding. Two recent cases point to that -one in Richmond where where the dump has leaked beyond the liner and beyond the “containment attenuation zone” to poison wells and one in the Waterloo region.
OPAL will continue to demand that the scope and depth of the studies respond to the need for public safety. The Minister had the authority to stop the dump at the Terms of Reference and had the evidence. The bulk of the science will only buttress the arguments of several independent and Ministry scientists and help us to stop the dump.
OPAL's Lawyer's Response: "The Minister's ill-advised approval of the EA Terms of Reference does not mean that the proposed landfill will actually proceed. In my opinion, however, it is unfortunate that OPAL, local residents, municipalities and First Nations now have to spend considerable time, money and effort in the EA process to oppose an inappropriate landfill at an unsuitable site," said Richard Lindgren, an environmental lawyer representing OPAL.
The entire Decision email can be found here.
For more information, please read "Understanding the EA Process - Walker Southwestern Landfill" and "Southwestern TOR NOA".
We'd like to thank everyone who came to Embro on April 23 and Woodstock on May 7. Our next Trashapaloozaha event will be on September 17 at the Masonic Lodge on Thames Street in Ingersoll. For more information, visit visit our Events page.
When communities are faced with locally unwanted land uses, they have several choices. Three interesting examples are Ingersoll, Timmins and Guelph-Eramosa.
Everyone is aware that Ingersoll, along with all of Oxford County, is faced with a significant challenge to land, air and water from Carmeuse’s plan to allow Walker to establish a mega-dump in their quarry and to haul in 17 million tonnes of waste from Toronto and area. That dump in Zorra Township, an unwilling host to the project, adjoins a cemetery, residential neighbourhoods, historic sites and water sources. Not a good place for a dump (if there is any such thing as a good place for one). The community’s response has been strongly against this, leading to the formation of OPAL and the engagement of its Alliance partners in the effort to stop the dump. That has been bolstered by the support of the Town of Ingersoll whose council has been extremely active sending a delegation to Belgium to face the owners of Carmeuse, sending Mayor Ted Comiskey before uninformed and complacent Toronto committees of Council, and in financial support of OPAL’s efforts to inform and educate.
Timmins, in Northern Ontario, faced with an unnecessary and unwanted gravel pit application, followed Oxford Council’s lead in using the official plan to deny the company the right to begin operations. At 500 meters from a lake, argued local residents to the lake, the pit expansion represents not only a nuisance of noise and traffic – and here you might want to add that industrial levels of noise are a health challenge and that truck traffic results in accidents whose outcomes are always worse for cars than heaping loads of gravel – but a threat to clear water for drinking and fishing. These last arguments against the pit sound a lot like those of the downstream communities, like the Chippewas of the Thames, against Walker’s dump plan. Despite some opinion
that the pit met the lax requirements of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the council decided strongly to deny the zoning required. The pit was misclassified in the application as one which would require lesser safeguards, and was a negative for the community. As usual, the spectre of an OMB hearing, a costly quasi-judicial process, was raised as a fear tactic to persuade the council to let the project pass. They would have none on it. This is much like Oxford’s recent response to multiple letters from lawyers for Walker Industries which quoted various passages of the Provincial Policy Statement 2014. Like OPAL, Transition to Less Waste, and the Oxford Environmental Action Committee, the County cast aside those arguments by Walker.
Guelph-Eramosa Township also has reasons to object to a proposed gravel pit. Local residents are strongly objecting to Dick Construction’s “Hidden Quarry” at Rockwood. They say it’s not hidden at all. Rather it is right in their faces. Again the OMB threat surfaced, but this one will go to a hearing. Recognizing the cost of bringing experts to it, the township mayor Chris White said “I think it is absolutely critical the community have a voice at the OMB”. Council supported two expert witnesses of the community group to the tune of $70 000, leaving an active Concerned Citizens’ Coalition to move forward at the OMB on behalf of the community and with other experts of their choice. Like the Timmins’ situation and our own, citizens have formed a coalition to energetically oppose the locally unwanted land use, drawing in support of many kinds in the community.
With community will and expert assistance, local groups can successfully fight proposals which they believe will not benefit them. OPAL is very fortunate to have the assistance of two keen lawyers from the Canadian Environmental Law Association and a reputable water scientist in its employ, as well as the direct assistance of other experts. Further to this, even more support is provided through its Alliance partners and knowledge is gathered through its association with Gravel Watch Ontario and The Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force. Combining forces, we will continue to move forward against this unwarranted land use proposal.
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