Central council taking the offence on 2022 closure of Prov landfill

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CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Central Manitoulin council, at a meeting last week, raised concerns that it still has to look at a June  date for closure of its Providence Bay landfill site, even though there is almost no contamination of the site and the municipality has done everything the province has requested at the site. Previously, the estimated lifespan for the landfill had been an additional 40 years.

“I was surprised at the readings of contamination in the 14 wells at the site in the last report we received,” said Councillor Al Tribinevicius at a waste, water and education committee meeting. “The only thing that has been found is a natural substance that is found in petroleum. I find it ironic that we will be closing this (Providence Bay) site and be trucking much more waste off-Island if the site is closed. And it will mean a much larger cost to the municipality.” 

“Also, in an earlier report on the estimated project lifespan for the Prov site, it was 40 years,” said Councillor Tribinevicius. “It really makes me shake my head. I think there is good ground for us resisting  the provincial lawyers on this.  At some point we have to express our municipal needs; I’m not saying fight back, but certainly get ourselves involved. Think of all the effort that has gone into trying to get the main intersection in Mindemoya safe. If we have to close the Providence Bay landfill site, it will mean having to haul more truckloads of garbage and waste off-Island through this very intersection. When the time comes and if we have no other alternative, we have to get our provincial members of parliament involved.”

“We are a small municipality and don’t have a big tax base,” said Councillor Tribinevius. “And if the costs go up significantly because we have to close the Prov site any thoughts of, say, building a new arena will fall. This project will demand a massive hike in taxation. That seems to be the picture in front of us.”   

“I am very much in agreement with your line of thinking,” stated Mayor Richard Stephens.

“For the Providence Bay landfill site, staff is recommending that we allocate $100,000 to engage a consultant to produce a comprehensive for a waste management plan,” said Councillor Tribinevicius. The plan will provide the municipality a full-scope assessment on how to move forward with its active landfill sites and waste collection/diversion operations.

“We discussed at our previous meeting about the need for hiring a consultant to help get things in order,” said Councillor Tribinevicius. 

“I’m hoping there is some funding available because of the situation we are dealing with here,” said Mayor Stephens.  

Councillor Tribinevicius noted the municipality had made a request to the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change for an extension of five years on closure so that the municipality could transition before closing the Providence Bay site. However, no reply has come from the ministry on this request.

“I received a letter today from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicating municipalities (in Ontario)  are being given far more latitude on planning decisions. If we had more latitude on decisions such as our landfill and what is best for our community, it would make life easier and more affordable, for municipalities like ours, outside of the decisions being made in Toronto.” 

Councillor Derek Stephens noted that numerous tests that have been carried out on the Providence Bay landfill show that the site is clean. “But obviously the (ministry) does not want to listen and has decided that the site will need to be closed. Where are we in terms of our meetings with the ministry? I assume the site will have to close in June.”

Denise Deforge, secretary of the committee (and municipal treasurer) told the committee that meetings have been held with the ministry on looking at the closure plan for the landfill  to be complete in March. When it is complete, council will be able to look view the report. She added that  the ministry “is willing to work with us.” 

“We need to know when we are into our operating budget if we are going to have to charge tipping fees and our costs for haulage of waste off-Island,” said Councillor Derek Stephens. “Right now, the site closure order is set for June. Without knowing the costs involved, it makes it hard to deal with our operating budget. We may be looking at a cost of $500,000 in hauling and tipping fees on our budget.” 

Councillor Dale Scott, “I find it very discouraging when we have been compliant with all the things the MOE has given us over the years. We are operating an efficient landfill, there are no concerns with plume movement or contamination but because the higher-ups in the ministry have a bone to chew, we have to close the site. We have the science that any type of hazardous waste at the site has been contained.” 

“The ministry is taking a hard-nosed attitude on this issue,” stated Councillor Scott. “Derek is right that if we have to have a closure plan by March, we’ll only be in the site for five more months. When we don’t know what the costs are going to be or be able to plan for this, it makes it very difficult to budget. Maybe we need to get the media involved, our member of parliament, or petition the ministry. We have done everything we can. It’s disheartening that the ministry is taking the position it has on this issue.”

“I totally agree,” stated Councillor Tribinevicius. “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark. We have the lab reports that show nothing in the site now is definitely not as noxious as the pollution that will be caused by hauling more waste here to another site by a truck, through several communities to Espanola on a regular basis. We have been very careful to make sure there is no impacts on the environment, but this is not being recognized by the province. Instead, the landfill, which is in good shape, will be closed and we will have to haul waste off the Island. And taxation will skyrocket.”