While each of us produces garbage, we rarely think of where it ends up – as long as it is removed from our properties on a regular basis. However, our increasing dependence on a consumer-fuelled economy and the growth of our cities we are much more conscious of the impact we are having on our own and other’s environments. An obvious solution would be to reduce consumption, eliminate superfluous packaging and examine alternative disposal technologies. It is time society moved beyond the not in my backyard (NIMBY) mentality, and began to consider waste solutions other than massive landfills.
The Ottawa Citizen recently covered a meeting held by the Pontiac Regional Council in which the Warden Michael McCrank and 17 mayors that make up the council passed a motion to have Danford Lake added to the list of possible sites for a massive engineered landfill that would serve the entire Outaouais.
The proposed landfill, at 545 acres, is equivalent in size to the area bordered by Bronson and Laurier Avenues and Catherine and Elgin Streets – or 145 square blocks that comprise downtown Ottawa.
Located in the municipality of Alleyn and Cawood (Danford Lake) 90 north of Ottawa, this beautiful wilderness area is surrounded by cottage country – numerous small towns, lakes, rivers and cottages dot highways 105, 148 and 301.
The site developers, LDC, Management and Environmental Services, include Ottawa demolition company Cohen and Cohen as the major shareholder and Gatineau businessman Denis Rouleau. The partners themselves concede in a pamphlet entitled TheFacts distributed in March 2006, “in spite of all precautions and controls, there remains a certain risk of untreated leachate leaks and resurgences.”
Leachate is the toxic residue that results from a mixture of chemicals collected in landfill sites. The proposed landfill is to be located in sandy soil – nature’s sieve. The area runs off into both wetlands and into the Picanoc River, which in turn feed the Gatineau River.
To mitigate against toxic leaching into groundwater, most landfills include layers of plastic liners that have been glued together. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the American Society of Civil Engineers and Environment Canada have noted that these liners leak even when new and are vulnerable to tears from machinery, animals and chemical solvents. It is a matter of time, before the liner breaks down all together and toxins are released into water systems.
However, safe alternative technologies currently exist at comparable operating costs. In fact these are in use in European communities and include plasma gasification and modern incineration. These technologies are available through Ontarian and Quebec companies and can be installed and operated at a community level, hence, making each community responsible for their own backyard.
Outaouais residents and members of the Coalition Against the Danford Mega Dump have been meeting with several regional councils and mayors of the Outaouais to present alternative forms of waste disposal. This is an opportunity for our political leaders to be champions for the environment by embracing these modern technologies. The people are clearly ready!
Despite opposition from 3,600 concerned citizens, including a majority of AlleynandCawood ratepayers who have signed a petition opposing the proposed megadump in Danford Lake, the municipal council submitted a request to be considered for the landfill site. Within the community, only 44 families have signaled their support for the proposal.
This is not a case of a community rejecting responsibility for their own and other’s waste, but an example of a region prepared to embrace new technologies and operate these in their own back yard, in a method that is protective of the environment. Yet, requests for alternative approaches are falling on deaf ears.
The council of Alleyn-and-Cawood has never met with the representatives of the Coalition – often setting a meeting only to cancel. Repeated formal requests to disclose any conflict of interest made to the Alleyn and Cawood councillors and mayor have all gone unanswered.
A referendum would once and for all decide the fate of this small community and based on the vote by the mayors in the Pontiac on June 26, the ball has been thrown back in to the court of the council members and Mayor Joe Squitti. The Council may be forced to actually let their rate-payers have a say on this issue. What a statement for democracy that would make and for the future of our environment!
Cottager on Danford Lake