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Mayors of Ingersoll, Zorra Township move to deny support for proposed Walker landfill

Ingersoll, Ont., Mayor Ted Comiskey will bring a motion to the next council meeting officially announcing that the town will not be supporting a proposal by Walker Environmental to build a massive landfill in a limestone quarry in Zorra Township.

Motions could pose problems for dump that if approved, would be fifth largest in province

The site of a proposed landfill in Zorra Township, near Ingersoll. The site is currently operating as a limestone quarry and owned by Carmeuse. If approved, this site will become Ontario's fifth largest landfill. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The heads of four municipalities plan to each bring motions at their July council meetings announcing they will not be supporting a proposal by Walker Environmental to build a massive landfill in a limestone quarry in Zorra Township, close to Ingersoll. 

Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey said he will bring a motion to a July 12 meeting of Ingersoll town council that will  "make our position perfectly clear to Walker Environmental" that the town will not be supporting the landfill, which the company wants to locate on 37th Line (Oxford County Road 6) only a few kilometres from downtown.  

Zorra Township Mayor Marcus Ryan will bring the same motion to his municipality's July 7 council meeting. Similar votes are expected at upcoming meetings of the Township of South West Oxford and in Oxford County. 

Provincial legislation requires municipal support for any new landfill as part of the environmental assessment process, so the municipalities acting in a united front of opposition could kill the landfill which, if approved, would be Ontario's fifth largest. 

"We've had enough and we've been given the right to say yes or no and it's time for us to exercise that right and put this to a stop," said Comiskey on Thursday. "If you do not have an okay from the municipalities affected, then it cannot even be presented to the ministry, so at that point in time this is done." 

The landfill Walker is proposing would be large enough to take 17 million tonnes of trash — most of it from outside the community — over its 20-year lifespan. 

The proposal has met stiff local opposition, with concerns raised about the 150 daily truck visits it will generate along with worries about contaminating the nearby Thames River and groundwater sources.

For its part, Walker has insisted the site is a safe location for a landfill, pointing to plans for a thick liner to contain leachate, the toxic liquid created as trash gets wet and decomposes. 

Last year, new legislation came into effect which requires companies to get municipal approval for new landfills. Ontario municipal politicians applauded the decision, but those in the waste industry said it will make it more difficult to meet the rising waste demands of a growing province. 

According to the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA), Ontario's available landfill capacity is expected to be exhausted in 10 to 14 years. Of the 8.1 million tonnes of waste the province landfilled in 2017, about 3.5 million tonnes was exported to the United States, mostly to Michigan.

Walker Environmental responds

Darren Fry is managing the landfill application for Walker Environmental. He said opponents are overlooking studies which he says show the landfill can be operated safely. 

"We're disappointed the local councils are making decisions without taking into consideration the scientific evidence," he said. 

Fry said Walker is now "reassessing our options" and considering their next steps in light of Thursday's news.

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