In a couple of weeks, on Feb. 18, the most populous country on Earth will celebrate Chinese New Year and usher in the year of the pig. Ac cording to Chinese astrology, people born in this year will grow to be chivalrous, sociable, and pure of heart.
Personally, I don't place much stock in astrological predictions of any kind be they western, Chinese, or Jyotish, but I will play Nostrada mus, indulge in a little forecast of my own, and prophesy that here in the Gatineau Valley, 2007 will be the year of the trash.
I make this bold prediction based on the arc of two stories very fa miliar to Low Down readers— that of the Cantley dump and the Danford dump to be. Like an astronomer charting the celestial paths of stars, I can project the course of these two tales, and I have hunch both of them will go nova this year.
In a way, we're privileged to be able to observe these stories unfold ing at once, because I think one informs the other.
Cantley's dump, with its checkered past, reckless management, tor mented neighbours, noxious fumes, and legal entanglements is some thing of a tragedy, a worst-case scenario, and an object lesson in the difficulties our waste creates for ourselves.
With such ample and compelling evidence illustrating the hazards of landfilling so close at hand, it makes Danford Lake's eager and deter mined bid to host the mother of all landfills very curious and puzzling indeed.
This week we learned that in June an administrative tribunal will de cide whether to uphold Quebec Environment Minister Claude Bechard's decision to close the Cantley dump. The hearing was supposed to begin next week in Quebec City, but was postponed four months and the venue switched to Gatineau. The delay prolongs the suffering of Cantley resi dents fed up with the foul-smelling operation, but also means they will be able to share their frustration with the tribunal more conveniently.
Before that hearing can take place, we'll probably witness another pertaining to Danford's proposed dump. The Bureau d'Audiences Pub-liques sur l'Environnement (BAPE) is expected to announce public con sultations any day now where the landfill's promoters will lay out their case for the project, and anyone else can present their case aginst it.
The Quebec government has outlawed old-fashioned trench land fills, those little open garbage pits every municipality has tucked away in some dark corner, effective 2008. All municipal solid waste must be disposed of in "engineered landfills" that meet more rigorous restric tions. The dump proposed for Danford is one of these.
Here in the Outaouais there is no question we need a place to put our trash, but there are alternatives to landfilling. One of them, plasma gasification, is being touted by opponents to the Danford dump who are lobbying local politicians to consider adopting it here.
The first plasma gasification plant in Canada will open in Ottawa this spring. If its all its cracked up to be—it claims to be able to convert garbage into electricity and non-toxic fill—it offers a mighty attractive solution to our waste problem on this side of the river.
With this in mind, I would humbly suggest that when the BAPE hearings roll into town, people here in the Hills should pressure their municipal representatives to take a stand against the Danford landfill project. To at least delay it until we know conclusively whether plasma gasification is a viable and preferable alternative. And if it is, we should do everything in our power to bring it here.
But I can't promise that this is how it will all end. I only know that like the year of the pig, the year of the trash is going to start with fireworks.