Full Environmental Assessment for York1 proposal needs cabinet approval

Protesters outside The Wheelhouse in Dresden press their signs up against windows as the meeting with York1 on its proposal to revive a dump north of the town went Feb. 10.

Likely to take months

We’re getting a better idea of how long it will take for the provincial government to make a final decision on an Environmental Assessment for York1’s proposal to reopen the Dresden dump.

But Environmental Defense says even a full Environmental Assessment is not enough. It’s calling on the provincial government to pull the plug on the Dresden dump proposal.

York1 Environmental Waste Solutions is looking to revive the dormant dump on Irish School Road, creating a construction and soil waste recycling centre and building a new landfill. Up to 700 trucks a day could arrive at the landfill each day if the proposal is approved.

Friday, the Environment Minister said she was “taking steps to require this project to complete a comprehensive Environmental Assessment under the Environmental Assessment Act. This would require this site to address local community concerns and mitigate potential impacts before it could open,” in a social media post.

In a statement to The Independent, officials in the minister’s office said it will take some time to get to a decision on whether the full Environmental Assessment – often called a ‘bump up’ – is needed.

“The ministry will be consulting the public on a proposal to require that the project, including the landfill and waste transfer and processing operations, complete a comprehensive Environmental Assessment,” said Alex Catherwood, a communications officer for the minister, in an email.

“This proposal, when ready, will be posted to the Environmental Registry of Ontario and the Regulatory Registry for public comment for 45 days. Based on the feedback received, we will determine our next steps with regard to the development of a regulation to designate the project under the Environmental Assessment Act. Any proposed regulation must receive approval from Cabinet before it can be made law.”

“If the project is designated as subject to the Environmental Assessment Act, no permits or approvals (e.g. Environmental Compliance Approvals) can be issued for the project until the minister has given approval to proceed with the project at the end of the environmental assessment process.”

Tim Gray, the executive director of Environmental Defense said “This is a good first step by the Ontario government. But it is not enough.”

Gray is concerned there will be run off from the site into Molly’s Creek, which drains into the Sydenham River.

“The presence of unique species at risk in the area and significant risks to air and water quality, coupled with a proposal that is out of scale and incompatible with the local community, leaves only one option moving forward: that the Ontario government pulls the plug on this proposal,” Gray said in a news release.

“This would contaminate critical habitats and threaten dozens of Ontario’s rarest threatened and endangered species such as the Spiny softshell turtle and Salamander mussel, pushing them closer towards the brink of extinction,” he said. “Contamination of the river could also have impacts beyond those indicated for species at risk. “Game fish in the river and in the Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie watershed could consume chemical contaminants leached from the dump. Through bioaccumulation, those contaminants could make their way through the ecosystem and into human food.”

Gray adds the amount of traffic generated by the landfill could affect air quality in the community which would “have severe impacts on the health and well being of the people of Dresden and Chatham-Kent.