Plenty of questions over proposed recycling/landfill site

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Molly’s Creek flows near the York1 property north of Dresden, emptying into the east branch of the Sydenham River.

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

When it comes to the proposed Regenerative Recycling Facility near Dresden, there are more questions than answers.

And until there’s more information from the province, those opposed to the Irish School Road development will be in the dark about what’s in store for the site north of Dresden.

Queries about water, noise and air pollution, as well as the effects of truck traffic on infrastructure, safety and quality of life continue to pepper social media, along with questions as to how the Ontario government can legally bypass the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in the decision-making process.

The issue of a new recycling facility came to light when nearby property owners were informed of a current application by York1 to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to triple the size of the waste disposal site and have the potential for it to operate 24/7.

Unused for some time, the property is said to have been a tile yard prior to its former incarnation as a wood pallet processing facility.

Dave Willson, a neighbour who lives directly across from the property, has been a vocal critic of the expansion. He attended the Feb. 10 York1 information meeting in Dresden but said he doesn’t feel “reassured.”

Willson said that while the proposal will impact his family directly, he’s more worried about the effect on Dresden.

“It’s going to hurt our little town,” Willson said.

According to a report published in the Petrolia Independent, York1’s George Kirchmair told the meeting the Ministry of the Environment approved the site as a landfill and waste transfer station in 1979.

He said York1 plans on building a large structure where materials can be recycled and repurposed into other products. Materials that can’t be recycled will be landfilled.

In the letter circulated to adjacent homeowners, York1 said the site will be upgraded to meet current environmental standards, including a compacted clay liner, a geomembrane line and leachate collection and extraction system that would include a leachate pond. Monitoring wells would also be installed and berms as high as 80 feet could be constructed.

Located on the former Highway 21, the proposed site is approximately a kilometre away from Dresden and three kilometres away from the east branch of the Sydenham River. Molly’s Creek, located near the site, runs into the Sydenham.

North Kent councillors Rhonda Jubenville and Jamie McGrail attended the meeting. They said they are taking the matter seriously.

According to Jubenville, Chatham-Kent hears the concerns, recognizing that the majority of people in Dresden and the surrounding area are “vehemently against” the proposal for a variety of reasons.

Sensitive environmental waterways and water wells are at risk, Jubenville said, adding an influx of traffic in the area is of grave concern.

Jubenville said it’s important that people provide comment to the ministry by the mid-March deadline to make their concerns known and encouraged people to “stick to the facts,” when doing so. She urged people to attend the next York1 public meeting March 1 at the Ken Houston Memorial Centre in Dresden.

McGrail also continues to emphasize the importance of public input.

“I want to continue to reinforce the municipality is very invested in this,” McGrail said, noting the process has landed Chatham-Kent in uncharted waters.

“We are dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s,” McGrail said. “I cannot stress enough that it is extremely important for the public to submit their comments to the province.”

While the current site does not need municipal approval for expansion, any changes to adjacent properties will.

An update by C-K planning services will be presented to C-K council at the Feb. 26 council meeting, according to department director Ryan Jacques.

Jacques said the municipality was not aware of York1’s plans until late January.

“Chatham-Kent received notices from the Ministry of Environment on Jan. 29, 2024 that they had received an application from York1 to amend an existing environmental compliance approval specific to waste transfer,” he said.

Jacques expects the municipality to receive a similar notice in the near future in regard to “an existing environmental compliance approval regarding landfill.”

He added communication with York1 has been “very limited” since the firm took over the property in 2022.

In comparison, Waste Connections Canada, which operates the Ridge Landfill is in regular communication with Chatham-Kent personnel.

Jacques said municipal staff are seeking the advice of outside experts in regard to the York1 issue, and hope to have the information ready for the Feb. 26 council meeting.

The municipality has until mid-March to submit its response to the York1 proposal.

The Voice was unable to contact York1 as of press time.

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