Environment Minister tours Twin Creeks landfill in Watford

An aerial view of Twin Creeks Landfill in Watford.

Heather Wright/The Independent

Ontario’s Environment Minister got a first hand look at Watford’s Twin Creeks Landfill.

WM – the owner of the landfill – organized the tour for Andrea Khanjin and the new Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Steve Pinsonneault and invited members of Warwick Township council along Tuesday.
Mayor Todd Case was in one of the pickups which drove around Ontario’s largest landfill. And he had time to talk to the minister along the way.

“We welcome the opportunity anytime we have a chance a talk to the Minister of Environment, and it’s nice for her to be able to see the site with her own eyes and draw her own impressions. And sort of get a feel for the land, if I can put it that way,” said Case.

That view may be even more important as WM continues its Environmental Assessment for the expansion of the Twin Creeks site. The Watford landfill will only operate seven more years in its current footprint. The company is proposing an expansion which would see more garbage piled on top of the existing site.

In Nov. 2020, Waste Management unveiled the plan which would allow the company to accept waste for another 12 years by increasing the height of the berms. 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.

Case says the company is about a quarter of the way through the approvals process, with the township’s legal and environmental advisors keeping tabs on what’s going on. The mayor hopes the minister will keep the view from the pickup in mind as she deals with the request.

Warwick Mayor Todd Case, right, with Environment Minister Andrea Khanjin, Deputy Mayor John Couwenberg and Councillor Wayne Morris during the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in the winter. Case says discussions with Khanjin led to better reporting by WM.

“When you actually get through the gates of that landfill, you see how massive it is – and they got to experience it during operations, which is even better….when the site is operating at the height of their day – it is always a very good visual and a good thing for the minister to see.”

The Independent asked to speak by phone to the Minister about her tour of the site. Her communications staff says she was too busy for a brief phone conversation.

Case says Khanjin is very open and has already been helpful to the township dealing with the landfill.
Case, Deputy Mayor John Couwenberg and Councillor Wayne Morris met with the minister in January to urge the province to require WM to issue reports more frequently. The company now files monthly reports instead of quarterly.

It’s also likely Minister Khanjin will see WM’s latest request for a revision of the current Environmental Assessment.

Case says under the current plan, the company has to start planning for a leachate treatment plant seven years before the landfill closes. That would be about now. But WM wants to delay that, citing the expansion.

Officials appeared before council Monday to talk about WMs plans for leachate management. Under the 2000 plan, the company was to build a plant on site. That was delayed. Now WM is seeking another delay saying since it committed to prepare a study for leachate treatment in 2017, the long term plans for the site have “evolved and continue to change,” WM’s Engineering Manager Wayne Jenken told council. The company, he says, will “consider” leachate management in its expansion plan.

Case is concerned about that saying it will be some time before any expansion plans are considered.

“Three years upon completion of the landfill they’re supposed to have (a leachate treatment facility) in place… But at the same time, they’re really obviously banking on getting their expansion. And that’s what they’re basically stating; ‘Why would we spend all this money and time putting this plan together and then, potentially, the expansion is approved and it’s not worth the paper it’s written on and we have to go back and design something else.’

“ I understand the financial argument that they’re making but it’s an assumption,” says Case.
“We’re barely just started through the EA processes and there is awful lot more to go, so it is quite an assumption for them to make.”

Warwick Council will ask WM to explain what will happen should the expansion of the landfill not be approved.

In his presentation to council, Jenkens did say the company currently ships about six tankers of leachate to various waste treatment plants in Chatham and London. It’s also working on an agreement to ship the waste to Petrolia.