The Hamilton Spectator

Residents ‘sick of being gaslit’ on odours from Taro dump

Community meeting puts GFL on hot seat over lack of response

- RICHARD LEITNER REPORTER

Residents at an online community meeting accused host GFL of “gaslightin­g” them on ongoing complaints about the Taro industrial dump’s odours as the company assured them it’s fixed the root of the problem.

Site manager Lorenzo Alfano attributed last summer’s widespread stench to the upper Stoney Creek dump’s leachate, which he said is now kept “under control 100 per cent” by actions taken since an Oct. 18 provincial order.

They include lowering excessive levels of the waste liquid, installing air scrubbers near a leachate building by the former west dump and at the operating site’s pumping station, and placing deodorizer­s at three locations, he told the March 4 session.

Alfano said GFL is also working to get city and provincial approvals for an enclosed, on-site leachate treatment plant that would hook into Upper Centennial Parkway’s trunk sewer — and hopes to have it running by the end of this year.

“We’re committed to ensuring those odours that were experience­d last summer never occur again. We all agree it was not a friendly spring,” he said, alluding to strong odours that began last April, when GFL started building a new liner cell by Green Mountain Road.

Alfano acknowledg­ed the site is still getting odour complaints — including 99 to GFL in February and 243 to the environmen­t ministry between Jan. 18 and March 4 — but said the smells are intermitte­nt and no longer waft through surroundin­g neighbourh­oods.

“It’s difficult to say that we’re never going to experience another odour here,” he said, adding that all waste smells, even if Taro can’t take household garbage or waste that can decay.

“To be 100 per cent odour-free, that would mean every landfill in North America would be the same way and I’m probably challengin­g anybody to drive by another landfill — city-run, privately run, water treatment plant … at the perimeter of those locations you’re going to get odours.”

But several residents said they are still smelling the same odours as last summer — 3.6 kilometres away in one case — and that complaints to GFL don’t get a response or are rejected as unsupporte­d by the wind direction on the day in question.

Winslow Drive resident Victoria Moral said she’d called in a complaint during the meeting because of a “horrible” smell in her neighbourh­ood, located near Felker’s

Falls Conservati­on Area.

Alfano said GFL had already sent someone to investigat­e and “our people did not detect anything.”

“That’s mind-blowing. Are these people nose blind?” Moral responded. “I smelt it. It was a toxic smell. My six-year-old just smelt it. We opened up the door and it hit us like a ton of bricks. And it is the same smell as last year.”

Resident Jen Walker said GFL’s response reflects why many people no longer bother to make odour complaints to the company.

“They’re sick of being gaslit,” she said. “When your whole community is being told that it’s not happening, such as this evening with several people on this call in the Winslow area saying there are complaints and your staff is saying that there is not (an odour), that is gaslightin­g.”

Dave Richmond, GFL’s vice-president for Eastern Canada, rejected suggestion­s his company isn’t admitting the dump is the source of odours to avoid potential legal liability.

He said GFL has visited more than 700 neighbouri­ng homes to encourage people to submit complaints because it wants to eliminate the odour issues, a task made easier if people provide details like the time, location and intensity of odours.

“We’ve absolutely shown our intent of getting down to the bottom of this,” Richmond said. “We’re not proud of what happened through the summer of last year. We’re going to get it fixed.”

Stephen Burt, the Environmen­t Ministry’s Hamilton district manager, said he will be raising concerns about responses to odour complaints with GFL and his own staff to ensure they are being dealt with appropriat­ely.

He said the ministry has fielded 1,404 complaints about dump odours since last April, although many don’t provide enough details to allow for enforcemen­t actions.

“I know the frustratio­n the community is feeling. I totally understand it,” he said, adding that even if the odours are no longer present by the time someone responds doesn’t mean the complaint wasn’t valid. “Odours are very transient. They move very quickly.”

Burt told residents he can’t comment on the ministry’s investigat­ion into the dump’s potential regulatory violations, but GFL has submitted a plan to enhance air monitoring at the site.

The company has also submitted a plan to lower unsightly stockpiles of waste, which the ministry has determined exceed the dump’s approved height limits, he said.

 ?? RICHARD LEITNER METROLAND ?? Residents protest outside the Upper Centennial Parkway entrance to GFL’s Taro industrial dump on March 1 to draw attention to what they say are continuing problems with the site’s odours.
RICHARD LEITNER METROLAND Residents protest outside the Upper Centennial Parkway entrance to GFL’s Taro industrial dump on March 1 to draw attention to what they say are continuing problems with the site’s odours.

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