Citizens vow to stop Ontario landfill

Walker Environmental’s landfill is to be located just north of the Thames River and a deep kilometre-long lake that was once a quarry. |  Kim Osmond photo

Plans call for the dumping of waste from across the province into a limestone quarry in Zorra Township

ZORRA, Ont. — Despite massive opposition and an approval process that could last for years, plans for a 17 million tonne landfill in southwestern Ontario are moving forward.

Currently, a limestone quarry of almost 200 acres is the preferred site for Walker Environmental. It is located in Zorra Township, about two kilometers from the township of South-West Oxford, the Town of Ingersoll and the Thames River.

Plans call for the quarry hole to receive commercial, industrial and institutional waste over a 20-year period. While tipping fees have yet to be established, gross revenues could approach or exceed $1 billion.

Bryan Smith and Suzanne Crellin, members of Oxford People Against the Landfill, are playing a lead role in opposing the project.

“Once the leachate gets into the groundwater, it would flow for kilometres per day because of the geology in this area,” Crellin said.

“I have to bring my kid up next to this and he has to drink the tap water. It has to be safe. There is no other option but to stop this.”

The pair said 73,000 letters opposing the landfill have been sent to either Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne or Environment Minister Glen Murray.

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, who opposes the project, said it’s a credible number, and the approval process could take years to complete.

Walker Environmental has already invested heavily in the project and operates a landfill in Niagara.

Fred Freeman, the deputy mayor of Ingersoll, said he will not budge from his opposition. The town has been setting aside funds and has as much as $100,000 a year available for the fight.

Oxford County Warden and South-West Oxford Mayor David Mayberry is also opposed to the site.

He said Oxford has a 60 percent landfill diversion rate with its residential waste, which is a good number, but waste from other sources is exported out of the county.

Mayberry said Oxford can do better and supports landfill diversion rates approaching 100 percent over time. He encourages other municipalities to follow suit. He said there may be merit in moving to a regional approach on the waste issue so less emphasis is placed on exporting the problem.

“We question the suitability of the site because it’s right on bedrock, fractured bedrock. The concern in the county, and I think for council, is whether it is possible make that site safe,” he said.

Zorra Mayor Margaret Lupton said she is open to working with Walker Environmental, but only if the company is successful with its application. Payments to affected municipalities may be possible.

Walker representative Steve Hollingshead said waste being put in the landfill at the site could come from anywhere in the province, including Oxford County, but most of it would likely come from Toronto.

Unlike the Green Lane landfill west of London, Hollingshead said Walker’s Niagara landfill doesn’t stink. Before trucks are fully unloaded, the waste is already being buried and that’s the plan for the Zorra location.

He also said steps are being taken to deal with leachate from the site, the top concern for area residents.

While Smith and Crellin describe the landfill containment liner as being the thickness of a coin, that’s just one of its components, said Hollingshead. It would actually be close to 3 1/2 metres thick, with two compacted layers of clay and two tiled and gravelled layers, from which leachate is drained away and subsequently treated.

Hollingshead said the liner design is the safest design approved by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and is used at Walker’s Niagara location.

He is the designer of the latest section of the landfill operated by Walker in Niagara where the same technology is used.

The safety of the liner design and overall design of the landfill have been challenged by experts hired by Oxford People Against the Landfill.

Asked why Walker is interested in the site, Hollingshead said there’s already an existing hole and, according to Fry, the site is already designated as industrial.

Along with bringing science that speaks against the viability of the site, OPAL maintains that Walker Environmental has failed to follow proper procedures with its application and says the site owner, Carmeuse Lime and Stone, already has a site rehabilitation plan in place that doesn’t include a quarry.

The group also has support from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nations, which maintains that it should have been consulted since the Thames River passes through their land and is sacred to their community.

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