Neighbours wants MOE to keep an eye out as Clean Harbors expands

Clean Harbors, St. Clair Township

Clean Harbors expects to begin work on its expansion by September.

And a long-standing critic of the site says he’ll be watching to make sure the Ministry of the Environment and St. Clair Township make sure it is safe for the community.

Clean Harbors has been working on the expansion of the hazardous waste site outside of Brigden for years. Friday, the Ministry of the Environment approved the plan to begin piling waste higher in the exist landfill. The company expects over the next 25 years to pile waste as high as the 25-feet berms.

Mike Parker, Clean Harbors vice president of environmental compliance, says the company will still have to secure it’s Environmental Compliance Approval to operate the expanded site. He expects that could take a month.

The approval won’t come quick enough. Parker says if nothing changed, Clean Harbors would run out of space at the Petrolia Line site in November. Right now, Parker says they’re keeping a tight rein on what comes through the gates. “We’re kind of selective of who we are accepting now; we can’t accept huge projects,” he says.

Clean Harbors has applied for permission to ship waste to the US if necessary. That could take three to six months to approve.

But Parker is hopeful Clean Harbors won’t run out of time and space. If the company has its Environmental Compliance Approval by the end of August, construction will begin in September; “as soon as we get the approval.”

The company will be finding a contractor for the $5 to $7 million job soon. Construction itself may only take a couple of months. “We’ll be putting gin some collection systems and trenching systems and diverting our ponds,” he says adding the work can be done “relatively quickly.”

Parker adds Friday’s approval of the project is a relief because “we’re starting to see a future again for the site.”

While Clean Harbors is relieved to be moving ahead, Jim Stenton is resigned to the hazardous waste site’s expansion.

Stenton recently won a civil suit against Clean Harbors after a summer of sickening smells forced him from his home.

Stenton and his neighbours vocally opposed the expansion plans. But he says “the thing was inevitable anyway” adding the company couldn’t “get a certificate of approval for a hazardous site anywhere else in the province.”

He says Clean Harbors has “done things better lately” and he plans to hold the powers that be accountable to make sure that continues. “We can’t stop it but what we can do is insist on them doing their jobs…township, the  ministry (of the environment) and the province; if they don’t do their jobs, they’re the ones were going to be after next.

“The ministry and province have to do their job – handle it (the site) in the most responsible manner…which they haven’t done in the past.

“We’re obviously not thrilled about the expansion but we’re powerless to do anything about it.”