Intervenor: Vol 23. No 1 January - March 1998

Casework: Adams Mine Landfill

CELA is involved in a precedent-setting hearing before the Environmental Assessment Board in relation to a private sector proposal to rail-haul Metro Toronto garbage to an iron ore mine near Kirkland Lake for disposal purposes.This proposal, which was first conceived but then abandoned by Metro Toronto, has been actively opposed on environmental and socio-economic grounds by a coalition of groups represented by CELA. The coalition represents the interests of local residents, farmers and various environmental groups. The EA Board hearing is significant for several reasons:

  • the large-scale and long-term nature of the undertaking (i.e. disposal of 20 million tonnes of waste over 20 years, with a potential contaminating lifespan at the site of approximately 1,000 years);
  • the novel landfill design which proposes to capture leachate (i.e. contaminated groundwater) through an engineered "hydraulic containment" system; and
  • this case is the first "scoped" hearing to be held under the recent Bill 76 amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act.

In deciding to send the matter to the EA Board for a hearing, the Minister only referred four specific questions:

  1. Will the "hydraulic containment" system effectively contain and collect the leachate generated at the site?
  2. If not, are there other design alternatives which may effectively contain and collect the leachate?
  3. Are certain proposed conditions of approval (i.e. community liaison committee, monitoring, contingency planning) adequate?
  4. If not, what additional conditions of approval are appropriate?

Critical threshold questions - such as whether there is a demonstrable need for the undertaking, or whether the proponent has adequately assessed the alternatives to the undertaking - are not going to be adjudicated by the EA Board.The EA Board held a preliminary hearing on this matter in late February. The main hearing will likely commence in late March and will take approximately 20 hearing days to complete. The outcome of this significant case will be reported in a future issue of the Intervenor. "People who live in the area are really frustrated," said Norm Macdonald, a resident of Boston Township, where the Adams Mine is located. "This has been going on for years. We've had petitions, and referendums, and public processes, and it doesn't seem to matter how often or how loudly we say 'no', the proposal just keeps coming back at us._______________________________Rick Lindgren is a lawyer at CELA