York1 forced to pay for environmental assessment

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Process for proposed landfill could take years

By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Ontario government has ordered a comprehensive environmental assessment for the proposed landfill near Dresden.

But while members of Dresden C.A.R.E.D. (Citizens Against Reckless Environmental Disposal) see the move as positive, they’re digging in for the long haul.

Following the announcement, Dresden C.A.R.E.D. chair Stefan Premdas said that while the non-profit is grateful for the EA, it wants to remind Premier Doug Ford of the words he spoke publicly in Essex, when he stated that if the people of Dresden don’t want the landfill, they don’t have to have it.

“This is nowhere close to being over,” Premdas stressed. “This is a war and the fight is just beginning. We now know the rules of engagement and we’ll be going over the procedure with a fine-tooth comb.”

As part of the decision from the Lieutenant Governor in Council, property owners York1 Environmental Waste Solutions Ltd., must complete the assessment under Part 11.3 of the Environmental Assessment Act – the highest level of environmental assessment in the province.

Under the protocol, the EA requires the assessment of potential environmental impacts and public consultation. Furthermore, the project can’t go ahead unless the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks makes a decision with the approval of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

The EA announcement is the latest development in Dresden’s fight against the expansion of the former landfill just a kilometre north of town. In February the community was blindsided by York1’s proposal to build a regenerative recycling facility, construct a leachate pond system and expand an existing landfill license to accept construction waste from the Toronto region.

With the help of groups such as Environmental Defense Canada and area First Nations’ bands, Dresden C.A.R.E.D. plans to continue sounding the alarm surrounding the negative impacts the York1 facility will bring to the community.

“We need to show the unfit nature of the site,” Premdas emphasized, stating the Irish Road School property north of town isn’t suitable for the York1 plan, either geographically or geologically.

“We want to make sure water testing takes place and that species at risk are protected,” he added. “We also need to force York1 to properly consult with affected communities, such as First Nations, which they didn’t do in the first place.”

Dresden C.A.R.E.D. also wants to bring Bill 197 into play. The parameters of the legislation state that municipal consent is needed if a landfill is located less than 3.5-kilometres from a community. The property boundary at the proposed York1 facility is only 700 metres from Dresden’s high school.

“Our municipality opposed this project and we hope the province understands why we do not want to live with a dump on our doorstep,” Premdas said. “Bill 197 gives us the right to say ‘no thank you.’”

Based on previous landfill challenges in Ontario, including a decade-long fight against a landfill near Ingersoll, a full-on comprehensive EA can take anywhere from three to five years. York1 will be required to foot what will likely be a multi-million-dollar bill.

In February, the GTA-based company said some of the material would be recycled and some of it landfilled.

The application asked for permission to operate the facility 24-7, with an estimated 700 trucks coming to the site each day.

After the news broke, Dresden C.A.R.E.D. was formed to fundraise and oppose the landfill proposal. The Municipality of Chatham-Kent also joined the fight, completing detailed responses to the province opposing the proposal.

In a municipal media release, C-K Mayor Darrin Canniff called the EA announcement “excellent news” for Dresden and all of Chatham-Kent.

“The response from the community of Dresden has been nothing short of inspiring,” he said. “They have presented a unified voice through petitions, signs, submissions and deputations for municipal council. The comprehensive environmental assessment process that is now required is a direct result of a community that has come together to speak up for what they believe in.”

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