by Deron Johnston
There’s a storm brewing with one of the members of our Leeds and Grenville family just to the south of us. The United Counties of Leeds and Grenville approved a parcel of land in the Township of Edwardsburg Cardinal for use as a county landfill. Ottawa-based waste management company, Tomlinson, recently expressed interest in acquiring this land to create a landfill and “serve Leeds and Grenville for the next twenty eight years.” Local residents are strongly opposed to this and some of them have formed a group called ‘Citizens Against the Dump’ or CAD.
The parcel of land, or ‘ED-19’ as it is called, is located at the west end of Byers Road. It is about 165 acres in size, with approximately 35 acres designated for the landfill footprint. It was identified as the preferred landfill site in the 1990s as the result of a Waste Management Master Plan Study for UCLG, including Brockville and Prescott. At the time, ED-19 received Environmental Assessment approval and a Provisional Certificate of Approval was issued in 1998.
The environmental assessment of the land was done twenty years ago, so a representative from the provincial Ministry of the Environment stated, at a public meeting on February 16, that this is the first time that an assessment this old has ever been used. The assessment actually pre-dates the opening of the final link of the 416 highway in September 1999, to put it in perspective. Though there is no expiry date on environmental assessments, CAD spokesperson, Kyle Johnston, is hoping that the Minister of the Environment will consider nullifying the assessment, as the Minister has that authority. Mr. Johnston says that the aged assessment doesn’t take into account current data collected since 1998 on factors like the status of local water tables, population growth, wetlands, and species of wildlife and plant life at risk. This landfill will also have a significant impact on property values for local residents.
At a recent public meeting hosted by the UCLG, approximately 350 residents attended (the Township of Edwardsburg/Cardinal only has a population of 7,000). According to a witness, at one point during the meeting, a resident stood up to ask if anyone in the room supported the dump: no one stood up. At this meeting, both the Mayor of EC, Pat Sayeau, and the Warden of the UCLG, Robin Jones, stated that “we hear you”, understanding the clear opposition to the dump. This was a change of position for the Mayor, who previously voted in favour of the dump at EC Council and who had written an op-ed piece in the Prescott Journal in mid November in support of it.
At the last meeting of UCLG Council, EC Ward 3 Councillor, Michael Barrett, presented a petition with 380 signatures opposing the sale of the land to a private company because of the risk of the dump expanding and waste being brought in from other jurisdictions. With his recent change of heart in mind, Mayor Sayeau also brought a motion forward “to terminate any discussions or negotiations with an existing or potential purchaser of the ED-19 designated regional landfill site” which was defeated by nine votes to one, with North Grenville Mayor David Gordon voting against.
Part of the fear of local residents is, not only the creation of the current dump itself, but also Tomlinson’s apparent interest in purchasing a much larger parcel of land surrounding ED-19. This could result in a very large expansion of the proposed dump in the future into a possible ‘mega dump’ covering hundreds of acres. This mega dump could signal that Tomlinson would start bringing in garbage from all over Eastern Ontario and possibly even other parts of Ontario. According to Mr. Johnston, once a dump gets established, it is much easier to expand it than establish a new one.
You have to wonder why the UCLG wouldn’t agree to getting a new environmental assessment done. Are they afraid that the new assessment wouldn’t support their plans for a landfill? This might go a long way to relieving the anxieties of those opposed. Do members of the UCLG Council not care about the possible impact this could have on the health of residents and wildlife; not to mention the negative financial impact this could have on local residents? It sounds like County Council heard residents, but didn’t listen. Sound familiar?