ALLEYN & CAWOOD:
Citizens are banding together to voice their growing concerns about the proposed engineered landfill site near the village of Danford Lake. In a recent press release, the Coalition Against the Proposed Danford Lake Landfill Project outlines six major reasons why the building of the landfill would be inviting disaster.
Fears about contaminated air, soil and water, the increased truck traffic on the already inadequate roads and the tainting of an otherwise pristine environment are foremost among the concerns.
The Coalition feels that since efforts to obtain satisfactory answers from the promoters, LDC of Gatineau, and the Alleyn and Cawood council have failed, they must oppose the project outright. Residents of surrounding areas such as Kazabazua and Low are also joining the move to block the project. "A small rural community of a few hundred citizens should not sacrifice its pristine and peaceful environment to make profits for independent investors who purport to be solving the entire Outaouais region's future waste problems," the press release states.
Attempts at scheduling meetings between the council and the Coalition have been unsuccessful. Mayor Joe Squitti says the council must seek more legal information before he can fully answer residents' concerns. " We passed a resolution to allow the promoter to preform the studies, and we can't halt the project until those studies have been submitted," he said. "But the same resolution clearly states that all citizens will have an opportunity to present their views at a BAPE hearing - everyone will get a say." " Some of the claims by the Coalition are totally untrue," asserts Mr.Squitti. "They say the dump will accept medical waste, toxic materials, thousands of tires - this is incorrect." Seagulls, smell, leachate in the river and too many trucks on the highway are other issues he feels are not being correctly represented.. By accepting the project, the municipality gains firefighter training, use of the projects heavy equipment, employment at the site and considerable income from the dump profits.
Now in his third term as mayor, he says seeing the community divided by the dump issue "breaks my heart. A lot of this (conflict) is due to not getting both sides of the story - we need to get out the solid facts."
Getting hold of the facts is the whole reason the Coalition was formed asserts Michele Borchers, a citizens' group member. "We do understand where the council is coming from," she explained. " They are concerned with where they are going to get the money to comply with the coming waste management regulations - but we are telling them that this remedy is worse than the disease. We want to have frank and honest discussion, to look at other options, but we can't get anywhere if one party won't make the effort to listen." The Coalition feels that the council went ahead with the resolution at a time when ratepayers of the municipality were uninformed about or actually unaware of what the project entailed. Since that time a core group of residents has been striving to alert others in the village and other areas affected by the traffic and possible contamination, to the perceived threat of the landfill.
" We are told that we must put our questions in writing, but we are still waiting for answers. The council can't speak to us without legal representation. Transcripts of meetings and results of studies are not forthcoming. How can a small municipality make a decision unilaterally on something impacting so many?"
A petition is currently circulating, calling for the council to rescind the resolution to support the project and to stop promoting it. Anyone over 18 and living within the involved municipalities may sign.
The Citizens Coalition now numbers in the hundreds with members joining from across the Municipality and along the routes the trucks will take.
"We're not experts, we're not lawyers," Mme. Borchers concluded. "But we can read, we're not stupid. Every step of the way, the information we've been given has been a half-truth or actually wrong. The goal of the landfill's proponents is purely financial. The council never thought of the negative social impacts of the project- they just rushed into it. Now people are already talking about selling their cottages. The Coalition is not stubbornly opposed to landfills - but there should not be one built here!"
The twenty-two Environmental Impact studies carried out last year at the proposed site are to be submitted to the Ministry of the Environment at the end of January. After the provincial government has ensured the studies are complete and ready for analysis, the information becomes available to the public.
The ongoing fight to get Cantley's dry dump closed seems to be at an end - or is it? Environment Minister Thomas Mulclair has once again ordered the dump closed due to non-compliance to environmental standards in an injunction issued on December 16 last year. However, the committee of Cantley citizens working to regain clean air and water is not convinced." We've received many promises that the dump would close if it didn't comply with standards, but the trucks have never stopped," says committee member Bob McClelland. "We'll believe (the order to close) when we see the padlock on the gate."
Mr. McClelland says the class action court case against the site owners will go ahead regardless of whether the dump is closed this month or not.
His message to the people of Danford Lake? "If you think the Ministry of the Environment will protect you, come to Cantley."