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What are the facts?
By Robert Fowler, THE EQUITY, 22-March-2006

Dear Editor,

This past week I received "The Facts" published by ClEVO, an acronym which doesn't translate into a snappy English version. The paper at first gives the impression it is an independent authority though in reality it is LDC Management which is the company which wants to develop the Danfofd Lake garbage dump.

The Facts" puts forth the same arguments that have been used for the last 30 to 40 years: basically, dump your garbage in a hole and cover it up. The only differences from 100 years ago are: try and make the hole waterproof, try and make the leachate treatable and try and burn some of the methane. Well, the facts are, none of this really works. No matter how well "engineered," the problems are always there. Toxic leachate eventually gets into the water table and then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Rightly,"The Facts" points out, we all make garbage. It also says we each contribute one ton of solid waste per year. That may be true as an average, but the fact is many of us who recycle do not produce a ton of waste per person annually.

Also, as The Facts" implies, there is a lot of garbage that is not toxic. Indeed, if we all just threw out the vegetable trimmings and a few cardboard boxes or an old metal bed-spring there would be no problems. Likewise, a lot of building materials such as old bricks, concrete even drywall and 2 by ; 4s are basically inert, but to say that household garbage is safe is not true.

We also know that the local dump will not be used just for household garbage - it will be used, by everyone who has something to dispose of, and there are too many businesses and individuals who do not even attempt recycling.

This is because even when it comes to the simple 3Rs, the way the system works it is too easy for industries, businesses and, unfortunately, a lot of people just throw stuff away. One of the ways to get around this is to institute user pay. That is, simply to charge those who do not recycle. In some parts of the world where they take this a lot more seriously than we do in North America, garbage inspections are randomly performed and if you are guilty of not recycling you pay a fine. Another method is paying a fee per bag or container of garbage. This makes the less responsible (businesses and individuals) who don't recycle think about what they are doing: (This was tried in Osgoode Township, some years ago and reduced garbage almost instantly by 50 per cent) Our elected officials shouldn't tell us it is too difficult to implement; it's being done elsewhere so give it some thought and not for five minutes during a budget debate. There are ways to do most things if you put your mind to it, and we are not the first municipalities who need to deal with this. There are success stories all over the world and at least in the beginning it would be a wonderful way to supplement municipal revenues.

Taxing industries which produce and use non-recyclable materials would also create an incentive for them to re-think how they do things. (It can be done: Mercedes produces cars which are practically completely recyclable.) However, this is something that would have, to be done at a federal level otherwise some indusiries would simply move to the jurisdiction which gives them the easiest way out.

The fact is the best and usually easiest way to solve a problem is to deal with the root of the problem - and we are still not doing this.

The fact is in many parts of Europe recycling takes care of 75 to 90 per cent of garbage. In many cases the rest is incinerated. Incineration technology today produces less harmful toxins or air pollution for a t major city than burning garbage at one of the small, local in-trench systems we currently use here in Pontiac MRC. The main problem is incineration requires front-loaded capital (money) to set up. While estimates I have seen run from $2 to 3 million all the way up, for an incinerator which would handle the MRC Pontiac MRC's garbage a wild guess says it should not cost more than about $15 million. That seems like lot of money, especially for a small population MRC. But looking at the larger picture, the up-front capital cost isn't quite as much when viewed over the long-term: the incineration can generate electricity and also removes much of the harmful stuff that gets dumped in a landfill, so there are paybacks.

In the direct economic benefits to the municipality it is noted that the municipality will get money and jobs and a number of other benefits. That may well be, but with a simple dump they will also get traffic, noise, pollution, smell, depressed land values and a long term problem. And when problems eventually develop, as they surely will, the municipality will be stuck paying for attempts to fix them.

Further, I remember a trip to a landfill when we were researching the Bristol situation. We visited the major land fill in Montreal during winter. There were one person on the gate weighing trucks that came in, one person directing trucks to where they had to dump and two people operating heavy equipment compacting the garbage We had a guide whom I assumed was also the administrative person, but there certainly were not 22 to 37 people involved in running the operation.

The fact is, as long as cities and rural municipalities (which in effect is "us") can pass off garbage on someone else instead of taking care of it locally, the longer there will be no impetus to solve the problem at the source.

The MRC should be considering the best options for their constituents, not just wbat appears on the surface to be the cheapest and most expedient. We don't expect the MRC to be experts on the technology, so hire the best independent, unbiased consultant to do it for you.

LDC Management and Environment Services should be put on hold or sent back to the drawing board and told: your current proposal for old fashioned "landfill" technology is not good enough; Let's get innovate. Give us a solution, not another problem down the road.

Robert Fowler, chairman

Municipality of Bristol Planning Committee

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