New book examines grassroots fight against landfill

Poh-Gek Fokert with copies of her new book, Fighting Dirty.

By Adam Prudhomme
Staff Reporter

Tamworth’s Spindle Tree Gardens’ well-kept grounds, abundance of flowers and bubbling fountains don’t typically evoke thoughts of large-scale landfills.  And yet a landfill was the topic of conversation there on Sunday afternoon as guests gathered to celebrate author Poh-Gek Forkert’s launch of her book, Fighting Dirty: How A Small Community Took On Big Trash.

She penned the story of how members of the Concerned Citizens Committee of Tyendinaga and Environs successfully halted the expansion of the Richmond Landfill.

“It’s not really chronological,” Forkert says of her book. “I kind of focus on the people so I jump back and forth (in the timeline). It was difficult to follow because I kept jumping back and forth and I felt chronological would be a bit boring. What I did was added a chapter at the beginning that gave you the chronology so that you would be able to follow.”

A research scientist, toxicologist and professor at Queen’s University at the time, Forkert first got involved with the issue when she attended a meeting in 2005. After witnessing the passion of small town residents objecting to Waste Management’s plans to expand the Richmond Landfill, she decided to get involved. For the next decade she began documenting the CCCTE’s crusade and even testified on behalf of the group at an environmental review tribunal.

For her book she interviewed the key players in the community who voiced their opposition to the expansion.

“Poh-Gek has captured the enormity of the challenge that we had in fighting the mega landfill,” said Jeff Whan, a member of the CCCTE who helped organized the book launch event. “But also the special team that we put together, all that different skills and personalities that kind of united, put our arms around each other and stood up to the big guys. Just a bunch of people from the country who thought it was important and dug in and rode the highs and lows and we’ve got them on the run.”

Though the book celebrates a major victory for the group, Whan says its still an ongoing issue.

“It’s not over,” he said. “Everyone kind of thinks the dump is over but it isn’t. (Waste Management) still has an outstanding terms of reference for an environmental assessment to establish a mega dump in Napanee big enough to hold Toronto’s garbage. That would be a huge devastating impact on our economy if that ever happened and the other issue is the health impact. They have no idea where the plume is. They’ve been investigating for years. There’s farmers and people that live around there that depend on the wells. Not only that, the creeks all flow down into the Bay of Quinte and Lake Ontario. Where’s the leachate going? They can’t tell us and that’s not a good thing.”

Forkert’s book has already drawn praise from several experts in the field including David Suzuki and was chosen by Now Magazine as one of their 18 must-reads for fall.

While she appreciates the praise, she hopes the book is more than just an interesting read.

“I’m hoping there are other communities that are fighting the development, that they’re going to be able to use it as a primer,” Forkert says of what she hopes people get out of the book.

The book was published by Toronto-based Between The Lines. It’s available by at Gray’s IDA in Napanee or by emailing

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