Proposed Richmond Landfill Expansion

Backgrounder to Media Release: Mohawks and Residents Bring Dump Objections to Queen's Park; Demand that Ontario Reject Flawed Environmental Assessment

Feb 22 2006

The proponent, Waste Management of Canada (WM), owns and operates several landfills in Ontario, including the Richmond Landfill Site northwest of Napanee. This site pre-dates Ontario’s environmental laws and has been in operation since the 1950s. In essence, WM is seeking approval for a 25 year expansion of the Richmond Landfill in order to receive 750,000 tonnes of waste per year from an all-Ontario service area. In general, the proposed 18 million tonne landfill expansion consists of two main components: (a) physically expanding the landfill onto adjoining agricultural lands; and (b) excavating and processing the millions of tonnes of waste already buried at the site in order to reclaim disposal capacity. This "reclamation" phase is expected to last at least 10 years.In order to proceed with the proposal, WM must obtain approval under Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) as well as other provincial statutes. The EA Act is administered by the Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Laurel Broten. WM filed its EA with the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) in late November 2005, and the agency and public comment period on the EA ended in late January 2006. At the present time, the Government Review period is underway, and the central focus is the adequacy of WM’s EA documentation. During the public comment period, the Town of Napanee, the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Tyendinaga Township residents, and other stakeholders filed expert reports that identify numerous concerns, questions and issues about the adequacy and completeness of the EA documentation. Members of the public have also filed literally thousands of submissions that oppose the landfill expansion. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is currently investigating whether the federal EA law should be applied in order to address potential transboundary effects of the proposed expansion upon the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.A common concern is that from a hydrogeological perspective, the site is not a preferable location for landfilling, especially given the relatively shallow overburden, the fractured bedrock setting, the centuries-long contaminating lifespan of the site, and the proponent’s 100% reliance upon engineered works to contain leachate. There is also significant public concern about the leachate treatment options, air quality impacts, social impacts, and economic impacts associated with the proposed expansion.If the MOE’s Director of EA and Approvals Branch concludes that the EA is "deficient" (having regard for the purpose of the EA Act and the approved Terms of Reference for the EA), then the Director is entitled to issue a "deficiency statement" to WM. If the specified deficiencies are not remedied by WM to the Director’s satisfaction within 7 days, then the Minister is empowered to wholly reject the EA. If a Deficiency Statement is not issued, then the Government Review is completed and published. There will then be a final comment period (perhaps in the spring or summer of 2006) in which members of the public can request the Minister to reject the proposed undertaking or, alternatively, to refer the proposal to the Environmental Review Tribunal for a public hearing and decision.