Worries as GTA company plans to use dormant landfill

HEATHER WRIGHT PHOTO Dave Willson and Sherri Northcott stand on their front lawn with the landfill behind them. York1 is planning to bring up to 6,000 tonnes of waste to the site, which neighbours say has not been used as a landfill in decades.

York1 wants to bring more garbage to old Dresden landfill than goes to Watford

Dave Willson has a simple message for a Mississauga company looking to revive an old landfill just north of Dresden and he’s put it in big, red block letters on his front lawn. “We don’t want your garbage” the sign screamed as Willson unrolled it, preparing to plant it on his front lawn.

Willson and his partner, Sherri Northcott, live across the road from what most people in the area know as the old tile yard. Northcott has lived there five decades after her family moved from in town to the two-acre country lot on Irish School Road (formerly Highway 21) when she was three.

The landfill site has never been a problem. Willson worked there for a time. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks lists it as closed. It was a transfer station until 2021 but has not been used for landfilling for decades according to neighbours.

But that could change drastically after York1 Environmental Waste Solutions Ltd filed a proposal with the Ministry of the Environment to use and expand the old landfill. 

The Mississauga company does everything from excavation for major condo towers, to demolitions of large buildings, to installing water and waste water services in housing projects, to providing dumpsters to contractors and recycling waste. It also has nine waste transfer stations in the GTA and Muskoka.

According to the proposal filed on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, about 20 acres of the 85-acre property was approved in the past as a landfill. York1, which has owned the property since 2021, wants to expand that bringing up to 6,000 tonnes of waste a day from construction and demolition sites and soils to be either recycled or landfilled at the site. The operation, the proposal says, would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By comparison, Waste Management’s Twin Creeks Landfill in Watford  – the largest landfill in Ontario – accepts about 4,500 tonnes per day.

York1 said late Tuesday it did not wish to comment on the proposal until after meeting with the 12 homeowners in the area Saturday.

A letter to the homeowners states the company plans to upgrade the landfill to current environmental standards including a compacted clay liner, a geomembrane line and a leachate collection and extraction system which would include a leachate pond. It would install monitoring wells to detect potential impacts from the landfill and “the maximum elevation of the landfill is …80 feet above the existing grade.”

That could mean for some neighbours, whose backyard abuts the landfill, the 80 foot berms would be 50 to 100 feet from their home and block much of the sun.

Willson and Northcott have know something was up at the site across the road for some time. They were aware it was sold in 2021.

Then in 2022, York1 started sinking test wells on the property. That’s when they started having water problems. Willson says they were concerned about the water well which sits on the edge of their property, just a couple of feet from the road. York1 brought in a methane detector for the couple to use and Willson says “the machine lit up like a slot machine in Vegas”

York1 told him to open his windows and came to the house a week later to reclaim the device. The Ministry of the Environment said they’d need to repair their well. The pair paid thousands to methane proof it. The MOE, Willson said, told them the sinking of the test wells and his methane problem was a coincidence. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”

The couple is concerned that was just the beginning of the problems. Willson estimates if the MOE agrees to allow 6,000 tonnes of materials to come to the landfill, there could be between 140 and 160 semis rolling into the landfill site which he can see out the front window.

Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad expects it could be even more. Dennis Jackson of Dresden came to council Monday to voice concerns about the proposal and how it would affect the people living around it. After hearing from him, Broad says there could be 200 trucks coming and going each day if the company brings in that much material. “That’s a lot of traffic,” he says.

It is too early to say what route the truck would take. Willson believes the options are coming from the 401, straight through Thamesville and through Dresden’s downtown – passing two schools – or off the 402, “and then go down through Lambton crushing their roads first.

The couple will be going to the meeting, but aren’t sure if they’ll be able to do anything.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop the initial waste transfer – there’s 19 acres registered as a landfill. But it’s the expansion part; if we don’t stop it, this is going to be another Watford, it’s going to be another Petrolia and other Ridge landfill … they all started as waste transfer stations.”

The couple has reached out to the municipal officials, but say they haven’t had a response about the proposal. Chatham-Kent officials had not answered The Independent’s questions by press time.

Broad, too, is worried about what might happen. His council has sent the information to Lambton County officials to review. He’d like to contact the local MPP, however the seat is vacant after Monte McNaughton retired in September.

“I just can’t believe there isn’t a piece of property between here and York region that doesn’t have eight or 10 houses around it, that they can find a place to do this without anybody living around the area. It’s ridiculous.”