by Deron Johnston
Recently, in the Times, we wrote about the situation regarding the possible purchase of the site ED-19 in Edwardsburgh Cardinal by Tomlinson for the purposes of creating a landfill, and Tomlinson’s interest in buying additional land surrounding ED-19. The fear was that this might turn the area into a mega-dump, where waste might be trucked in from all over the province, instead of just serving the needs of Leeds and Grenville, as originally intended. A lot has happened in the past week, including a video where Joe Baptista, the Mayor of Leeds and the Thousand Islands (part of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville Council), disrespectfully dismisses information brought forward by a group of concerned EC residents (Citizens Against The Dump, or CAD) as ‘alternative facts’. CAD were not alone in their opposition; MPP Steve Clark had already submitted a letter of opposition to the site directly to the UCLG.
CAD spokesperson, Kyle Johnston, sent emails to the UCLG, outlining CAD’s desire to address the UCLG Council at their Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, March 7, to voice concerns and to submit a petition. He also indicated that CAD had met for a planning meeting, on very short notice, with ‘hundreds of residents’ in attendance. The group issued a statement that it has “retained legal counsel and will be moving, this week, to challenge the proposed sale to Tomlinson. We also plan to separately challenge the validity of the unprecedented 20 year old Environmental Assessment, upon which this sale is predicated, using the services of the Canadian Environmental Law Association.” The group has also received not-for-profit status to allow them to receive pro-bono legal counsel.
CAD was able to address the UCLG Council. Initially being told that the agenda for the UCLG County Committee of the Whole meeting was full, CAD was eventually allowed to give a presentation when the UCLG Council agreed to waive their procedural bylaw. That morning, more than sixty people attended the Committee of the Whole meeting to support CAD’s presentation. Due to the size of the Council chamber, a UCLG staff member told the group that some people had to leave, as the room was over capacity, as per fire safety regulations. Eventually, police were called and quickly escorted some people out into the hall so that the meeting could begin.
During this meeting, there were two motions introduced by Mayor Sayeau of Edwardsburgh Cardinal and Mayor Baptista. Mayor Baptista’s motion was to instruct the UCLG staff to get a letter from the Ministry of the Environment to validate the twenty year-old Certificate of Approval on the original Environmental Assessment. Mayor Sayeau’s motion was to suspend discussions with Tomlinson until both the MOE and Tomlinson held public meetings to review the technical details of the Certificate of Approval, and to address the concerns and questions of residents on the scope of the project and site operations.
The CAD group wants to make another presentation at the next UCLG Council meeting, on March 23, where these two motions will be discussed, and to bring forward their own motion instead. According to CAD, the Certificate of Approval has already been validated by the Ministry, so seeking validation again is disingenuous and a waste of time. It’s the original Environmental Assessment that they feel is heavily flawed. If the Ministry agrees that the original Environmental Assessment is not valid, then CAD believes that the Certificate of Approval is also not valid. So far, the UCLG Clerk has rejected the group’s request to be granted delegate status.
A particularly troubling piece of this puzzle is a letter sent from the UCLG CAO, Andy Brown, to Tomlinson on November 10, 2016. The letter gives Tomlinson permission to enter certain specific lands owned by UCLG in Edwardsburgh Cardinal, including ED-19. The outlined purposes of the permission are “1. Inspect and/or survey the lands for the intent of purchasing the said properties for a waste disposal site; 2. Undertake appropriate sampling and testing for the purposes of a waste disposal site; 3. Removal of beavers or nuisance animals and any dams/habitats that cause flooding of the said lands and/or adjacent lands.” Yes, Tomlinson was given permission to ‘remove’ wildlife by the CAO of the UCLG.
CAD emailed the Ministry of Natural Resources to ask them to inspect the site, as they feared it was “being improperly cleared of wildlife, including possibly the endangered Blanding’s Turtles, to create a dump.”
A disturbing thing about this situation is the apparent lack of respect shown by all mayors of the UCLG for the strong opposition of the Edwardsburgh Cardinal residents. It’s clear that the residents don’t want the dump. It also seems clear that the mayors don’t care about what the residents want. The UCLG has sunk a lot of money into this project already and if they have to get another Environmental Assessment, it may cost the UCLG quite a bit more. The mayors may not want to spend that extra money, but it’s also probably true that they’re all in favour of this project going through, because none of them want a dump moved to their municipality, if it doesn’t happen in Edwardsburgh Cardinal.
I live in North Augusta and I strongly oppose the sale to a private company since the risk of the private company building a mega-dump is high. The problem with this is that water knows no boundaries and building a mega-dump on a wetlands in an area known to basically be a wetland is just asking for poisoned water. Even just the risk of this happened can cut property values all through the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville in half. Not to mention the social stigma associated with such an environmentally insensitive, backwards move. I don’t know why the mayors are so obtuse to the risk of wide-spread contaminated water.
I was at the meeting and we had already voluntarily brought the group down to the right capacity- no one was escorted from the room by Police Officers.
Another issue is that the purchasers of the Johnstown site for Giant Tiger were not allowed access until a deal had been reached and it was required the site be examined for SAR and the contract ammended to allow for those found on the property. The free access given to Tomlinson unaccompanied is a huge worry.