Calls for a full Environmental Assessment for Dresden dump plan

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A map included in York1's proposal to the MOE.

Politicians and environmental groups are among the people urging the province to require a full Environmental Assessment for a plan to revive a dormant dump near Dresden.

Both the County of Lambton and the Environmental Defense Fund joined Chatham-Kent councillors in the calls for York1 Environmental Waste Solution to run their plan to bring up to 6,000 tonnes of waste to the Irish School Road site through the more stringent Environmental Assessment process.

The Environmental Defense Fund wants the province to reject the proposal, saying the plan to release storm water and the possibility of leachate from the landfill ending up in Molly’s Creek could harm 33 species at risk living downstream in the Sydenham River.

And Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad is worried about the impact of up to 700 trucks delivering waste to the York1’s Regenerative Recycling site will have on Lambton Roads.

Broad told Lambton county politicians March 6 everyone in Lambton has a stake in this project.

“We have a huge concern in Dawn-Euphemia…an influx of trucks like that is unfathomable,” he said.

“Seven hundred trucks a day…they could possibly go right out down 21 Highway down to Dresden,” Broad said pointing to the road just outside the Lambton County council chambers in Wyoming.

“That’s going to affect Plympton-Wyoming, it’s going to affect Petrolia, it’s going to affect Oil Springs, it’s going to affect Enniskillen, it’s going to affect Dawn-Euphemia…If they decide to go down 79 it’s going to affect Watford-Warwick and Brooke-Alvinston; we’re all in this together.”

That’s not a scenario Warwick Mayor Todd Case wants to see happen. “I don’t need anymore truck traffic through my community when it comes to landfill traffic.” Waste Management Canada owns Twin Creeks Landfill outside of Watford – the largest landfill in the province.

County officials have been dealing with the Dresden proposal already, but Jason Cole, general manager of infrastructure and development, says information is hard to find.

“The county is working with a consultant to provide an informed response through the Environmental Registry Ontario process,” Cole says.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s Land Use and Land Development Program Manager, Phil Pothen, says there is also concern for the natural habitat around the site. He’s concerned stormwater draining into Molly’s Creek will make its way to the Sydenham River.

“It’s a well documented biological treasure with at least 33 species at risk. And some of those species are found nowhere else in Canada… this is really a serious concern. A key source of clean water for this in the river is at risk of being contaminated.”

The Environmental Defense Fund is calling on the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to reject York1’s proposal saying a full investigation of the effects of an expanded landfill can’t be properly assessed in the Environmental Compliance Approval process.

York1 purchased what company officials call the “unique site”one kilometre north of Dresden because it already had landfill status – or an Environmental Compliance Approval – from 1980. At that time, the then-Town of Dresden purchased the former tile yard to bury ash from the town’s garbage incinerator.

The ECA stipulates that “95 per cent” of the tonnage landfilled at the site had to be incinerator ash.
Just before amalgamation, Dresden sold the site to Mark Smith, who ran a waste wood disposal site there. He had the Environmental Compliance Approval amended to accept more waste. But Smith’s company could only bring in 75 tonnes of waste a day for recycling. And anything that needed to be landfilled had to be sent to an approved landfill site, according to the conditions of the approval.

Today, York1 plans to bring in 6,000 tonnes of construction waste and soil for recycling. It’s also planning to build an engineered landfill site on 20 acres of the property to bring in up to 1.6 million tonnes of waste.

Pothen says York1 “is sheltering, under an old environmental compliance, the government should designate this project for impacts for full environmental assessment. That’s a different piece of legislation.

“If you don’t have a full-scale Environmental Assessment, it means that in the end, you end up with damage that you wouldn’t have otherwise…You can achieve generally the same objective, which in this case is waste storage without the risks that are caused when you do it without a proper environmental testing,” Pothen added.

“With an Environmental Assessment, if they can show that this project can go ahead safely, they are at least required to take the measures that allow it to happen, instead of using an ancient Environmental Compliance Approval, which we can be pretty sure doesn’t integrate those protections, especially since the original use was for a different kinds of place.”

Lambton County officials – like Cole – want to see a more extensive approval process as well. But he’s not sure that will happen.

“It is unlikely we would get the province to agree to a full Environmental Assessment process…but we could ask for a more extended process with more detail.”

Information about the issue is being sent to all municipalities in Lambton in the hope they also will make an official comment about York1’s proposal.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said all of Lambton needs to get involved. “Warwick went through this with Toronto for how many tortuous years – we need to get in the game early and support Dawn-Euphemia.”

Broad says Lambton officials need more information to make an informed response and he urged “every resident in Lambton county to go to the (Environmental Registry Ontario) website and at least make a comment.”

Pothen echoed Broad’s comments in an interview with The Independent adding a large number of voices asking for a full Environmental Assessment could make it “politically feasible” to approve the request.