CENTRAL MANITOULIN – Council for the Town of Central Manitoulin were trying to hold their cards close while discussing an order by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) to close up the Providence Bay landfill by next year, but news began to spread around the community soon after an in-camera meeting was held to discuss the issue.
Without identifying the landfill by name, councillors expressed dismay drifting into full on outrage over the MOECP order during a recent council meeting.
Challenged on the reason for an in-camera meeting to discuss the issue, Central Manitoulin Mayor Richard Stephens noted that the closure of a landfill could require the purchase of property for attenuation.
The issue of the Providence Bay landfill is not a new concern, first surfacing during the tenure of former Central Manitoulin mayor Mary Nelder—with concerns continuing to surface regularly in the interim. Despite that, Mayor Stephens said the closure order still came out of the blue, as the municipality had been led to believe “we were doing everything right.”
“We were given instruction on what it was we had to do to deal with the dump,” he said. “Those instructions were followed to a T.” Despite that, the municipality was presented with a fiat from the MOECP that appeared to come out of the blue.
“There were no signs of complaint from our end,” said Mayor Stephens. “Then all of a sudden, boom, we get the order to shut her down. No discussion, just an edict from a higher power.”
The MOECP order leaves the municipality scrambling to figure out what they will need if they are forced to shut down the landfill. “We have to find out what kind of attenuation zone we will need, construct wells for testing the ground water all over the place—it is quite an undertaking for a small municipality,” he said. “We are not the smallest municipality that will be facing these costs.”
As for the reason for the MOECP decision, Mayor Stephens shared that the ministry said they had received some complaints. “We asked for verification on precisely what the problem was,” he said.
Mayor Stephens said that his council’s frustration centres on their having tried to do the right thing, following the advice of the municipalities’ consultants and the MOECP. “Then they say to us ‘this is what you will do’.”
The costs of closing down a landfill site will be extensive, noted Mayor Stephens, and moving to a haulage contract for all of the municipality’s waste will be extremely expensive as currently commercial waste, roughly only 15 to 25 percent of the total waste produced, is diverted. “That number varies greatly between summer and winter,” said Mayor Stephens.
The Expositor reached out to the MOECP, but had not received a response by deadline Monday.