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Ingersoll mayor thrilled as Ontario gives municipalities right to refuse new dumps

Under new legislation, waste companies will need to get approval from municipalities within 3.5 kilometres of proposed landfill sites.

Walker Environmental wants to put a 17 million tonne landfill next to the community

A sign in Ingersoll, Ont., voices opposition to a proposed landfill in nearby Zorra Township. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

A fight against a proposed dump in a southwestern Ontario community reached a milestone Wednesday, when the province introduced legislation that would give them – and other municipalities – the right to say no to new landfill sites. 

In Zorra Township, Walker Environmental has plans for a 17 million tonne landfill site. 

Prior to this legislation, the company had no obligation to get approval from the communities it would impact – who have been railing against the proposal for the past 8.5 years. 

"I'm feeling very validated," said Bryan Smith, head of the Oxford People Against Landfill (OPAL). "It's not over, but it's a huge plus, and we've got a bill that I perceive is going to work its way quite quickly through the legislature." 

The bill, which says municipalities have the right to approve or reject new landfill sites within 3.5 kilometres of their boundaries, still needs to go through a second and third reading at Queens Park. 

Bryan Smith is the president of OPAL (Oxford People Against the Landfill). (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The site for the proposed dump is currently an active limestone quarry in Zorra Township, less than 2 kilometres away from Ingersoll's downtown. It would take waste from around the province, but most of it would come from Toronto.

And there is a laundry list of reasons why the community is opposed to it. 

There's the smell, the hundreds of daily visits by trash-hauling trucks and the impact a leak might have on the area's drinking water supply, said Smith.

"We really think the dump is not an appropriate way to use resources, and an inappropriate way to deal with things you're done with."

The site of a proposed landfill in Zorra Township, near Ingersoll. The site is currently operating as a limestone quarry and owned by Carmeuse. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Stop buying waste, says Ingersoll mayor

Ingersoll's Mayor, Ted Comiskey, was surprised by the legislation's introduction.

"It's kind of hard to believe right now. It's like Christmas Day," he laughed. 

With the help of Ingersoll's council, he spearheaded a group called Demand the Right Coalition of Ontario Municipalities and travelled across the province to garner support from other communities that wanted the final say on proposed landfill sites.

It grew to include 148 municipalities. 

"This now allows a small municipality not to have something forced down their throat, using the words of Premier [Doug] Ford," said Comiskey.

"It makes it so much easier than for a municipality to have to sit on the sidelines and watch its well water, or watch its air, or watch its traffic, or watch its social impacts be diminished just by someone who wants to make dollars by planting garbage in the ground."

Under the new legislation, Walker Environmental would need to get the approval from Ingersoll, Southwest Oxford and Zorra Township in order to move forward with the project. 

And the long fought battle against it highlights a looming problem: Ontario dumps are filling up, smaller towns are pushing back against the idea of taking trash from larger cities, and the waste industry says dump approvals are long, exhaustive processes because the province already takes up to 10 years to approve each new application. 

"Putting stuff in a dump in the ground is a 4,000-year-old technology," said Smith.

"Up until about the 1950s, people threw out things like ceramic, cloth, organic waste, and maybe some metals ... today, what goes into the ground in dumps is plastics and chemicals and pharmaceuticals."

Both he and Comiskey feel its time for consumers and industries to take responsibility for the waste they buy and create. 

About the Author

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter in London, ON. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca

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