Land­fills a li­cence to print money

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page -

Land has al­ways been a sound in­vest­ment, be­cause as they say, they’re not mak­ing it any­more. Land­fills are also en­ter­ing that cat­e­gory of rare and valu­able com­modi­ties, be­cause new “dumps,” as they were once called, are as rare as hen’s teeth.

In our “Not In My Back­yard” world, any­one who got in on the ground floor, or the ground level, of waste man­age­ment by now has a li­cence to print money.

As time goes by, and the world con­tin­ues to pro­duce trash, the value of waste dis­posal sites is bound to soar. De­spite the push to re­cy­cle as much as is hu­manly pos­si­ble, there will be no ap­pre­cia­ble, long-term re­duc­tion in the non-re­cy­clable wastes the world pro­duces.

As the need for land­fills in­creases, so will the re­solve of peo­ple to en­sure that new garbage han­dling fa­cil­ity stay away from their neigh­bour­hoods and con­ces­sions. Adding to this de­ter­mi­na­tion to keep strangers’ trash out of their back­yards is the spec­tre that big-city garbage will be dis­posed of in the coun­try­side. “Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across On­tario are qui­etly be­ing iden­ti­fied and tar­geted as po­ten­tial land­fill sites,” warns a mo­tion from Ox­ford MPP Ernie Harde­man. The Con­ser­va­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive is cir­cu­lat­ing a res­o­lu­tion to mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments to sup­port his de­mand for greater au­thor­ity over garbage dis­posal.

“I be­lieve mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should have a say in the lo­ca­tion of some­thing that would have such a last­ing im­pact on their com­mu­nity,” he writes. “As you know, to­day mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments can de­cide where a Tim Hor­tons should go, but they can't de­cide where some­thing as sig­nif­i­cant as a land­fill should go. That doesn't make sense.” A ref­er­ence to Tim Hor­tons is ap­pro­pri­ate here con­sid­er­ing that its con­tain­ers are the most com­mon form of lit­ter.

Any­way, only the Min­istry of the En­vi­ron­ment ap­proves a new land­fill, but Bill 16, Re­spect­ing Mu­nic­i­pal Au­thor­ity Over Land­fill­ing Sites, would en­sure that waste com­pa­nies are re­quired to have ap­proval from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity as well be­fore they can move for­ward with the land­fill place­ment. The idea has some mo­men­tum. About 30 and an­other 150 mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers have signed pe­ti­tions to de­mand this right. The res­o­lu­tion by Mr. Harde­man com­plains that the cur­rent law is out-dated and “al­lows pri­vate land­fill op­er­a­tors to con­sult with lo­cal res­i­dents and mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils, but es­sen­tially ig­nore them.”

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties al­ready have ex­clu­sive rights for ap­prov­ing casi­nos and nu­clear waste fa­cil­i­ties within their com­mu­ni­ties, the prov­ince has rec- og­nized the value of mu­nic­i­pal ap­proval for the sit­ing of power gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties, he points out.

“The re­cent re­port from On­tario's En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­mis­sioner has found that On­tario has a garbage prob­lem, par­tic­u­larly from In­dus­trial, Com­mer­cial and In­sti­tu­tional (ICI) waste gen­er­ated within the City of Toronto, where di­ver­sion rates are as low as 15 per cent,” the MPP ob­serves. Thus, the im­pli­ca­tion is that be­cause of Toron­to­ni­ans, there will be more pres­sure to se­cure more waste dump­ing grounds, and we know that there is no space on Bay Street for a land­fill.

Mr. Harde­man ar­gues that “mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties should be con­sid­ered ex­perts in waste man­age­ment, as they are re­spon­si­ble for this within their own com­mu­ni­ties, and of­ten have decades' worth of in-house ex­per­tise in man­ag­ing waste, re­cy­cling, and di­ver­sion pro­grams” and that lo­cal gov­ern­ments “should have the right to ap­prove or re­ject these projects, and as­sess whether the po­ten­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits are of suf­fi­cient value to off­set any neg­a­tive im­pacts and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.”

There are some eco­nomic ben­e­fits to hav­ing a land­fill site in a com­mu­nity. For ex­am­ple, North Stor­mont Town­ship re­cently re­ceived $551,000 from Green for Life (GFL) En­vi­ron­men­tal Inc. as part of a long­stand­ing host agree­ment be­tween the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the Moose Creek waste fa­cil­ity op­er­a­tor.

GFL owns over 2,400 acres in the north­east part of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity at the in­ter­sec­tion of High­ways 417 and 138, where it op­er­ates the fa­cil­ity for­merly known as Laflèche En­vi­ron­men­tal.

Em­ploy­ing 55 peo­ple, the Moose Creek site serves about 500 Eastern On­tario com­mu­ni­ties.

The firm is cur­rently in the process of ex­pand­ing the fa­cil­ity. If the pro­posal is ap­proved by the On­tario govern­ment, GFL En­vi­ron­men­tal Inc. will add 4.2 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of ca­pac­ity and ex­tend the life of the land­fill by about five to ten years.

It’s safe to say that most peo­ple in Eastern On­tario are hop­ing that the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity keeps grow­ing be­cause its ex­pan­sion would elim­i­nate the ne­ces­sity to seek out new sites.

Un­der the cur­rent law, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are pow­er­less when it comes to the lo­ca­tion of new dumps.

Be­sides, land­fill sit­ing de­bates are never pretty. In fact, anti-dump cam­paigns make anti-wind tur­bine drives look tame.

-- Richard Ma­honey, [email protected]­gar­rynews.ca

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