Out of time, out of options
MORRISBURG – The long-awaited landfill report was presented to South Dundas council Tues., April 2 and it comes two strokes to midnight as the municipality finds themselves out of space, out of time and with limited options.
Russell Chown, senior environmental geoscientist at WSP, provided the report and painted a thorough, albeit grim, portrait of the situation.
“I’ve had experience with several municipalities in the last 10 to 15 years and I’ve seen this problem before. It’s an unpleasant problem to deal with,” said Chown. “I really think South Dundas is at a point where there’s not much time left and the options are few.”
The Williamsburg waste disposal site is a ticking time bomb and at the current fill rate, estimated at 4,600 cubic metres, it will be closed in less than two years. An assessment of the mound by WSP also indicated that it has spilled out on one side, leaving less room than previously thought.
“We figure there may be two years of space left at that site, but I’m concerned there may be less,” said Chown. “If you take that into account you’re probably very close to being full at Williamsburg.”
That is only the tip of the trash pile. There has been no operations report done since 1993, there is no closure report, no contaminant assessment zone has been implemented as was recommended by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) in 2010, it’s on a provincially significant wetland (PSW) and the land in the area is mostly sand, gravel and peat, which raises contamination and leaching issues.
“As you can imagine contaminants can travel to ground water more easily through sandy sites,” noted Chown.
Leachate is a highly toxic substance, strong in odour and generally black, yellow or orange in colour that collects at the bottom of landfill sites over its lifetime. The greatest risks usually occur at older sites constructed before modern engineering standards and if it reaches the aquatic environment it has a devastating impact.
The outlook at the Matilda waste disposal site was more positive. At the current fill rate, the site has six years left and is considerably more up to date on the various reports and inspections. However, should the Williamsburg site close and there is no alternate plan in place, the diverted waste will shorten the Matilda site lifespan to less than three years.
Chown presented council with nine potential options, but deemed constructing a transfer station, expanding the Matilda site and signing a disposal contract as the most viable for South Dundas at this point.
A large landfill was not discussed as the timeline, five to 10 years for environmental assessments alone, and costs, $20 million to $50 million, are simply unrealistic.
The construction of a transfer station was estimated at $535,000 and the expansion was pegged at $2.2 million. It could generate 40,000 to 100,000 cubic metres of new space, which translates to a maximum of 12 years at the current fill rate.
The contract for the transportation and disposal would cost $308,425 annually, but that doesn’t include a curbside pick up contract, which the municipality recently renewed for one year at a cost of $590,000 with Miller Waste Systems. That’s an annual price tag of approximately $900,000 and $2.7 million in construction with no long-term solution and no figures for the closing and maintenance of the Williamsburg site.
After the more than 45 minute presentation, Councillor Lloyd Wells acknowledged the urgency of an issue not exclusive to South Dundas.
“You can go with all six of us here [in SD&G]. We’re all in the same boat. It’s something that’s got to be addressed and addressed quick. We need to be focused on what we’re going to address. Not waste six months on one option and find out it’s not going to work,” he said.
Diversion tactics are considered a vital element in reducing the stress on the landfills, although Chown admitted it is rare to get complete buy in.
“I think in reality, at the end of the day some people are very pre-disposed to recycle and some people aren’t. It’s very difficult to persuade the population to do the right thing,” he said. “Until you get to the point where there are financial consequences that’s when people finally start to change in how they handle their waste.”
Chown also noted the municipality should comply with the outstanding requests by the MOECP in Williamsburg and Matilda.
With the report presented, council must now decide their next steps. Mayor Steven Byvelds suggested a committee of the whole and a public meeting should be held to discuss the potential path forward.
“It’s serious money. I knew when I was campaigning we were going to double our costs if we couldn’t get landfill sites and have to truck everything out. It’s pretty well the right number,” he said.