Greater Napanee to push province for more timely landfill updates

Justin Medve
For the Beaver

Greater Napanee council received an update on the investigation of groundwater contaminants at Richmond Landfill during its regular meeting last  Tuesday – but questions were raised about who that information was coming from.

Concerned Citizens Committee of Tyendinaga and Environs (CCCTE) member Ian Munro presented council with new findings on the issue and the latest efforts his group has taken in response to owner Waste Management’s plans for the site. In 2012, the CCCTE took Waste Management to an Environmental Review Tribunal in protest of its intent to expand the landfill as Beechwood Road Environmental Centre (BREC).

As a result, Waste Management is required to delineate the landfill’s impact to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

“The fractured limestone base underneath there is the worst possible place to have a landfill,” Munro told the Beaver, citing clay as more suitable base. “Rain gets into the cracks and it goes where it goes and there’s no way to know.”

Munro used maps from Waste Management studies to show council what is known: five wells immediately northeast and south of the landfill are contaminated to some extent. Over a dozen more water sources reside in an affected zone that stretches southeast, but there is no evidence they are compromised.

Munro also drew attention to an artisan well far south that was recently found to have similar shallow- ­zone contamination as the five wells adjacent to the landfill. He said that is evidence of leachate – rainwater containing waste – continuing to spread underground.

“For years, they told us, and they told the public, and they told Napanee that that’s the only groundwater contamination that existed,” Munro told council, referring to the first five wells.

The issue has been long standing: Waste Management last tried to expand Richmond Landfill in 2006, but that proposal was protested by the CCCTE and rejected by the MOECC.

Munro questioned why the MOECC has not kept Greater Napanee up-to-date on the matter as of late.

Councillor Marg Isbester repeated that query, adding that the next elected council would also need to be kept up­to­date on the status of the landfill.

Mayor Gord Schermerhorn called for a letter to be written to the MOE to express council’s “disappointment” of the speed and availability of recent information.“I would like to make it a very strong letter if we can, to kind of put the pressure on the MOE,” Schermerhorn said.

Councillor Max Kaiser agreed with Schermerhorn, thanking Munro and other concerned citizens for their persistence on the matter.

Councillor Roger Cole said he hopes the next MOECC update is lengthy.

Greater Napanee Council’s most recent involvement in the situation was passing a resolution asking for the terms of reference – which define the purpose and structure of a project – for BREC to be revoked. It was rejected, but Munro thanked council for the exposure.

Munro also shared that the CCCTE was able to cut in half roughly $65,000 in outstanding debt last year through fundraising and the successful launch of a book written about the group’s previous efforts. Recently, money has been spent on a hydrogeologist, toxicologist and various tribunal expenses.

Munro told council that the next step for the CCCTE will be working to establish a date that all parties involved can meet and discuss the thoroughness of studies done and further preventive measures that could be taken.

The MOECC will make a final decision on whether or not Waste Management has adequately assessed the situation. Updated monitoring plans and measures would then be established. Currently, several wells have been installed with the intent of subverting leachate.

Munro told the Beaver that the CCCTE plans to bring wider attention to the issue during the in the upcoming provincial electoral season.

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