More than 3,800 landowners have signed a petition opposing an Outaouais landfill site on Danford Lake, an hour north of Ottawa, but municipal officials are ignoring them.
The township of Alleyn and Cawood, with a population of about 500, is the only municipality in the Pontiac interested in the controversial regional landfill. Landfill opponents, including many who live outside of but near the township, want a referendum to settle the bitter two-year-old debate about garbage disposal, but Mayor Joseph Squitti sees no reason to hold one.
"It is neither here nor there that 3,800 people have signed a petition," Mr. Squitti said yesterday. "I could go to Sao Paulo, Brazil and get half a million names.
"These guys are trying to jump the gun -- the provincial government may not even approve an environmental study on the landfill. The proposal will be dropped immediately if it doesn't pass even if everybody in the municipality wants it."
Mr. Squitti added there is no need for a referendum yet because the promoters haven't requested a zoning change that would allow a regional landfill and the Quebec Ministry of Environment hasn't held environmental hearings.
Quebec has ordered more than 50 Outaouais municipalities to stop burying or burning garbage at small dumps by 2008, and to find an engineered landfill that treats runoff and prevents gases from escaping into the air.
Landfill opponents want a municipal referendum because they believe the project could produce a mountain of garbage 22 storeys high within 30 years, pollute the nearby Picanoc River and increase truck traffic on Highways 148, 105 and 301.
Under Quebec law, Alleyn and Cawood would have to hold a referendum if 20 per cent of residents, about 100 people, oppose the landfill.
LDC Management and Environmental Services, the company that has proposed the landfill, is owned by Cohen and Cohen of Ottawa and Denis Rouleau of Gatineau.
Company spokesman Andre Guibord said it is illegal to import garbage into Quebec.
However, Michelle Borchers, vice-president of the coalition opposing the landfill, said an agreement in June between Quebec and Ontario to promote freer flow of commodities could allow Ontario garbage at the landfill. She added waste disposal companies from Ontario and even New York often ignore the Quebec law against importing garbage.
Ms. Borchers said people from Gatineau, Ottawa, Chelsea, Cantley and Kazabazua -- and even some from as far away as New York and Arizona -- who own property on Danford Lake oppose the proposed landfill because they are concerned that three thin plastic liners could leak, polluting the Picanoc and wells used for drinking water.
"At every council meeting we have asked for a referendum, but the mayor and council keep putting it off because they know they would lose it," Ms. Borchers said.
"Garbage should be treated in Gatineau close to where most of it is produced."
Andre Carriere, president of the Coalition Against the Danford Megadump, said the provincial government has not released a study on the landfill proposal that the promoters of the project submitted in February.
Mr. Carriere said the Pontiac region is considering alternatives to a regional landfill, including a pair of incinerators capable of burning 20 tonnes of garbage at a time and plasma gasification to generate electricity.
Alleyn and Cawood Councillor Michel Chartrand said a referendum on the landfill is needed to protect residents' democratic rights. "This would be the democratic way of handling this issue," Mr. Chartrand said.