Citizens, Warwick Township concerned about Watford landfill vertical expansion

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An aerial view of Twin Creeks Landfill in Watford.

Mac Parker is worried about Waste Management’s plans to expand the Watford landfill by building up.

The former mayor and now member of the Watford Warwick Public Liaison Committee with the waste giant, voices his concerns in an open letter to the company and the Ministry of the Environment.

In Nov. 2020, Waste Management unveiled a plan which would allow the company to accept waste at the site outside of Watford for another 12 years by increasing the height of the berms and landfilling more waste.

Right now, the berms are about 262 meters tall. The current licence allows Waste Management to build up to 282 meters high. If the company gets provincial approval, the landfill could be as high as 320 meters or about 1,050 feet high.

Twin Creeks was opened in 1972. Waste Management took over in 1996 and began a long battle to expand the site. The expansion was approved in 2008, over the objections of the community.

Politicians at the time did negotiate a host agreement and since garbage began rolling in from as far away as Metro Toronto, and Barrie, the municipality had received $23 million in hosting fees by 2020.

In 2017, Waste Management received approval to bring in 1.4 metric tonnes of waste a year. Officials say if the expansion is approved, that would not change. It would simply extend the life of the landfill.

Parker released his letter a week after the company released what it will be studying as it works towards MOE approval of the plan. Parker is already concerned about the increasing odours and the fact some of the leachate has seeped out of one side of the slope.

Parker questions why there isn’t more oversight of the massive landfill.

“In 2008 when present site was approved, there was a full time inspector from the (ministry) which WM was in support of,” he writes. “About eight years ago WM convinced the ministry to (do) once a month inspections. It is now once a week.

“This is not what this community signed on for,” Parker says.

“Why is WM concerned about an extra set of eyes watching their operation if they are doing a super clean job of landfilling Ontario’s waste?”

Parker is not the only one concerned about the project. Warwick Mayor Jackie Rombouts says council is worried about what building up the landfill to store even more garbage will do to the infrastructure in place to keep it safe.

“It’s not something that has happened very often,” she says.

“They do have an intricate set of pipes…that go into the engineering of the landfill, when you add that much more tonnage on top of it, who knows what’s going to happen,” says Rombouts.

“I haven’t seen or heard of anything quite like this.”

Rombouts says the township’s technical team, led by Environmental Lawyer Peter Pickfield, will look through Waste Managements Terms of Reference for the project and make detailed comments of exactly what the community wants to be covered as the company continues to study the idea.

Waste Management’s plans for what it calls the Optimization Study can be found on the company’s website and in print at the municipal office or Watford Library.

Residents have until Feb. 6 to submit comments and concerns to the Ministry of the Environment before it decides what Waste Management should study before any decision on the expansion is made.

Officials with the company expected it could take until 2025 to get MOE approval.