By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Dave Willson’s message to the owners of the former dump property on Irish School Road north of Dresden is clear.
“We don’t want your garbage.”
Willson, who along with wife Sherri Northcott, lives in a brick rancher directly across from the property that’s being considered for a possible 24/7 landfill site. He said the idea of trucks coming to the site around the clock raises concerns.
“Our driveway is right across from their driveway,” Willson told The Chatham Voice in a recent interview. “At night, the lights will shine right on our front door.”
Willson made the comments in response to a proposal from York1 Environmental Waste Solutions Ltd. to expand services at the location. The Mississauga-based company has owned the property since 2021. York1, which offers a wide range of services from waste collection to soil remediation, has applied to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to expand what’s offered at the location.
The site, which has been used as a small waste transfer station in the past, is already zoned as an existing waste processing site.
According to the company website, York1 currently operates nine waste transfer/landfills –aka garbage dumps – in the Niagara, GTA and Muskoka regions. The site states that “we provide an integrated portfolio of services consisting of demolition, excavation, shoring and foundations, hydrovac excavation, underground services, drilling and environmental waste management services.”
According to the proposal on Environment Registry of Ontario, around eight hectares of the 35-hectare property was approved for a landfill in the past. The new application to amend the existing order seeks to increase the amount of waste to 6,000 tonnes per day for non-hazardous solid waste.
The amendment also calls for indoor storage of 1,800 tonnes of residual waste for transfer including source separated organics, outdoor storage of 3,000 tonnes of recyclable materials and outdoor storage of 30,000 tonnes of non-hazardous solid waste consisting of unprocessed and processed soil.
If approved, the proposal includes the construction of a new processing/sorting building, expansion of the waste classifications to include blue box materials, installation of equipment to process construction and demolition waste, installation of a diesel-powered mobile shredding/grinding machine, installation of a soil washing system and construction of stormwater management infrastructure.
Willson, a contractor, said there haven’t been any problems with the site in the past, adding he even worked there for a time in a “low key” operation.
However, he and his wife knew something was up when the company started drilling wells on the site. Now, methane is being found in Willson’s well. It’s the first time this has occurred, he said, noting his wife’s family has lived on the property for 70 years with no problems.
But the biggest worry, Willson stressed, is the estimated 120 to 160 trucks that will bring waste to the York1 operation each day. The trucks would likely be coming from Highway 401 or Highway 402, which are around 33 km. and 68 km. away respectively.
He said the community won’t be fooled.
“We might be country bumpkins, but we all went to school and graduated,” Willson said. “It isn’t just about me. This will wreck our little town.”
The York1 proposal is turning up the heat on the councillors representing North Kent. Both Rhonda Jubenville and Jamie McGrail say they’ve been bombarded with calls and emails from constituents concerned about the expansion.
McGrail said the municipality only learned about the expansion after neighbours were contacted.
A public meeting between company representatives and the public took place Feb. 10. It had room for 100 people, but close to 200 showed up. Some protested in front of the meeting hall where the gathering took place.
Another meeting is scheduled for March 1 at 6 p.m. at Ken Houston Memorial Agricultural Centre, which has space for 300 people.
“This is serious and the municipality is taking it very, very seriously,” McGrail stated, stressing the fact the company applied directly to the province, and permission from Chatham-Kent is not required for the expansion.
She’ also hoping that candidates vying to replace former MPP Monte McNaughton will take the landfill expansion on as an election issue.
McGrail said it’s extremely important that people with concerns about the landfill expansion submit them to the Ontario Environment Registry (OER). The comment period is open until March 16. To submit a comment online access the OER website, under file 019-8205.
Officials in Lambton County are also raising the alarm, wondering about the impacts of a constant parade of garbage trucks on public safety and infrastructure.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has issued an official statement saying it is reviewing the matter and staff is currently gathering more information which will be presented to the public.