Pontiac's regional council has named Danford Lake as a potential location for a regional landfill site that opponents say could grow to a mountain of garbage 22 storeys high, towering over Outaouais cottage country within 30 years.
County warden Michael McCrank said all but one of Pontiac's 17 mayors voted in favour of the landfill, but the project still requires Quebec government approval and there will probably be a referendum in the municipality of Alleyn and Cawood, where the proposed landfill would be located.
There are three other possible sites: Mansfield, Campbell's Bay and Allumette Island. But Alleyn and Cawood, with a population of about 500, is the only municipality in the Pontiac pushing for a controversial regional landfill that would accept garbage from throughout the Outaouais, including Gatineau. It is about 90 kilometres north of Ottawa.
LDC Management and Environmental Services, the company that has proposed the landfill 17 kilometres west of Kazabazua, is owned by Cohen and Cohen of Ottawa and Denis Rouleau of Gatineau.
The dump would open in 2007 if it receives municipal and Ministry of the Environment approval.
The firm has promised the most modern landfill technology: four polyethylene and clay liners, full treatment of waste water and the use of dump gases to fuel a wood drying plant for a sawmill. The dump would create up to 10 jobs and add $200,000 to $400,000 a year to the municipal tax base.
Quebec has ordered more than 50 small 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.
Andre Carriere, president of the Coalition Against Danford Megadump, said opponents of the proposed landfill on Highway 301 are concerned runoff will leak into the pristine Picanoc River and wells that provide drinking water.
One of the residents' main concerns is the number of trucks that would use highways 105, 301 and 148 on the way to the landfill.
The landfill would be only three kilometres from some cottages.
Alleyn and Cawood Mayor Joseph Squitti said he wants to see the Ministry of the Environment study before deciding whether he should support the landfill.
Mr. Squitti said the province would organize public hearings on the proposal after it releases the study.
"If there will be rotting garbage 22 storeys high, I will be the first one to stand up and say we don't want it," Mr. Squitti said. "But some people say there are going to be 20 to 22 jobs created.
"Even if there were eight to 12 jobs, the landfill would employ some people, keep young people in the municipality."
Michele Borchers, vice-president of the Coalition Against the Danford Megadump, said construction of the landfill might never start because Alleyn and Cawood will have to hold a referendum if enough people object to the project.
"If the majority of citizens are opposed to the zoning change needed for the landfill, the project would die right there," Ms. Borchers said.
"It is certain that the majority of people are against the landfill.
"A recent agreement that facilitates the transportation of goods between Quebec and Ontario could mean waste will come in from Ontario and even the United States.
"It doesn't make any sense to bring garbage to this place, which is surrounded by water and where the soil is mainly sand."
Ms. Borchers said sooner or later, all landfills leak and this one would probably leak into the Picanoc River a few hundred metres away.
That's a concern of Paula Armstrong, a forestry ecologist. She said the landfill could pollute the Picanoc, which flows into the Gatineau River, if its plastic liner leaks.
The landfill's proximity to the river makes it "a bad idea," Ms. Armstrong said. "Even though there is supposed to be a thick plastic liner and a layer of clay 30 centimetres thick, over a period of 100 years it is almost certain that it will break down.
"The water table is close to the surface and the elevation is only five to 10 metres above the river. There would be a truck here every half-hour, because to make the landfill work financially, the company would have to take waste from the City of Gatineau and Chelsea."
Ms. Armstrong said it would be better for Gatineau to establish a landfill site within its own boundaries because there is clay there several metres thick. She said a better option would be garbage incineration.
Ms. Armstrong says there would be a levy of $8 a tonne to dump garbage at the landfill. If LDC Management's estimate of 250,000 tonnes of garbage a year is accurate, that would work out to $2 million that would go to the regional municipality of Pontiac.
That would be an incentive to council to approve the project, she said.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006