Province requires municipality to drill more wells on landfill to continue operation

MINDEMOYA—Members of Central Manitoulin council are upset that in order to keep the Providence Bay landfill in operation, the municipality will need to have more wells drilled on the property to prove to the Ministry of Environment that contaminants are not leaving the site.

“I’m trying to understand what the logic is behind all of this,” stated Mayor Richard Stephens at the Central Manitoulin water waste and education committee meeting last week. “Here we have a dump site and have put in drilled wells to monitor whether any contaminants are going off the property. We have had all of this done and over the years study reports have not found any contaminants going off site. Now there is a question as to whether we can continue to operate our dump if we don’t drill more wells. We have to again prove there is no contamination. It is like being called guilty until proven innocent.”

“This last application for a new C of A (certificate of approval for use of the site) has been a very long process and the fact that we have a draft certificate from the ministry to approve is exciting,” said Councillor Alex Baran. He pointed out, however, that the MOEE should have asked that the previous wells be dug at the right depth levels in the first place. “They should have told us at the outset the depth of the wells they wanted drilled and where.”

Councillor Derek Stephens pointed out there are 11 drilled wells on the dumpsite currently and private ones as well. “The more wells we have drilled on the property towards the off-site private property, with the limestone, any contaminants are going to move eventually.”

“If you want to prove the site is not contaminated (more wells are going to have to be drilled),” said Dave Bucholtz of Cambium. “I can understand your frustration. But things are where they are. You have a draft C of A from the ministry to make a decision as to whether to approve or not. Once the certificate is approved council will have three months to make a decision as to whether to do the groundwater investigation plan or close the present dump site.”

Mr. Bucholtz told the committee he has been assisting the municipality on municipal waste issues for the past few years now. “In 2013 I helped developed a plan for the five landfills you had in the municipality, looking at everything at each site.”

“The Providence Bay site is still an active landfill. In the plan we looked at the operations of each site and how to keep them open,” said Mr. Bucholtz. “Then the plan went to the MOEE for their review and  was sent back to the municipality to respond to any concerns raised. At the same time, the municipality had to inform neighbouring property owners of any changes made to the certificate. In this situation there were some negative comments provided on the changes (by neighbours of the site). One property owner hired their own lawyer with their own consultant as well and provided the information they had to the MOEE.”

“Where we are at now is that the review has been done and the MOEE has provided a new certificate of approval to continue operating the landfill with conditions,”said Mr. Bucholtz. “The MOE points address  how much waste going into the site, and if there are contaminants coming out of the site and off the property.”

“They (MOEE) are asking for the draft certificate to be approved,” said Mr. Bucholtz. “If council wants to continue operating the site it has to prove there is no contamination on the property or going off site. If not you will have to close the site.”

“So far all the hydrogeological tests that have been done on the site show no contamination,” stated Councillor Derek Stephens.

Mr. Bucholtz explained, “the MOEE is concerned that potential leachate plume is not being contained on the property.”

“So, in other words, they want more wells to be drilled,” stated Councillor Stephens, to which Mr. Bucholtz replied that was indeed the case. “Eventually with drilling on limestone something is going to crack and there is going to be a problem if we keep drilling wells.”

Mr. Bucholtz said what the MOEE is demanding is abnormal, the municipality has gone through this before. He also noted the best way to attenuate leachate is to buy more property around the landfill site. However he acknowledged neighbours are quite adverse to selling any property to the municipality for this purpose. The drilling would include another five or six wells.

“Drilling wells and testing them costs money,” said Councillor Stephens.

Mr. Bucholtz noted that it will cost $40,000 approximately for six new wells and hydrogeological tests to be done.

“So, we can comply with more wells to show no contaminants are going off site, but we also should possibly be reviewing the need for more attenuation zone,” said Councillor Baran.

There is the potential for that being needed in the future, Mr. Bucholtz told the meeting.

“Again we have to prove that we are innocent and until then we are still guilty,” said Mayor Stephens.

Mr. Bucholtz said the municipality has three months after it approves the C of A to decide whether to continue with the groundwater investigation or look at closure of the site. With implementation and monitoring wells. the municipality would be looking at a time frame of the end of 2018, he pointed out that with the fill in rate at the Providence Bay site, the landfill has a lifespan of about 10-15 years.

“The MOEE is expecting a comment on the draft plan. It is up to you if want to accept the certificate of approval or not,” said Mr. Bucholtz.

“Why can’t they just give us the certificate of approval. When is enough-enough? I’ve been on council the longest among all of us here and we have had to go through these type of long processes before,” said Councillor Stephens. “Now, if we want to keep the landfill open we have to drill even more wells to prove what we already have. It makes no sense.”