Anger, doubt at County Waste meeting
By Miriam King Bradford West Gwillimbury Times
Stantec Consulting and the County of Simcoe were prepared for questions about proposed options for managing solid waste, at the first of 3 Public Open Houses, held Monday night at the Nottawasaga Inn.
What they got from the 70-plus people in attendance were questions about the process, and accusations that the County isn’t sincere in its request for public input. There were complaints that the public had only a few days notice of the Public meeting, which was described as an “add-on” to the strategic planning process; that the consultants had scheduled the meeting in New Tecumseth on the same night that New Tec Council meets, and a meeting in Wasaga Beach on the same night as Wasaga Beach Council.
And there were complaints that residents were being asked to file their comments by February 12 – Feb. 16, at the latest – if they want them to be included in the first round of the review by Stantec. “Twenty years… and now you’re rushing this? You want it by Friday?” said one resident, who declined to give her name. “We’re talking about a 20 year plan. This is Monday, you want our input by Friday.”
She complained that although the meeting was 3 and a half hours in length, only 35 minutes had been set aside for questions and answers.
During the rest of the evening, the consultants talked with residents, explaining the process and the options currently under consideration, followed by a brief presentation by Stantec.
“The consultant has identified for us a list of options that we need to investigate further,” said Rob McCullough, the County’s Manager of Environmental Services. With the County currently diverting about 54% to 60% of its trash from landfill, through recycling and Green Bin programs, McCullough said, “We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’re amongst the “best of the best”, but that doesn’t mean we’re planning to sit on our laurels” – especially since the County has only 4 dumps in operation, with an estimated capacity of 5 to 6 years.
“What we’re doing is using Zero Waste principles,” McCullough said, looking at ways to further increase waste diversion – but also looking at additional disposal options, since the introduction of Zero Waste will take time to implement, and the County is growing at a rate of 2.5% per year.
Rob Graham, project manager with Stantec, suggested a number of alternatives to get diversion rates closer to 70% – including going to bi-weekly garbage collection while maintaining weekly recyclable and Green Bin pick-up; and switching to clear garbage bags, which would allow collectors to see if recyclables and organics were included in the waste stream. “The whole thing is to get the public to do the right thing,” Graham said. “You make the good things convenient, and the bad things inconvenient.”
He agreed there will still be a need for additional disposal options, both in the short and the long-term.
Among those options: shipping waste outside of County boundaries; approaching York Region-Durham to participate in a planned $230 million Energy from Waste Plant; expanding existing operational landfill sites; or even pursuing full approval for 3 partially-approved landfills – Site 9 (Medonte, near Coldwater), Site 12 (Sunnidale, near the existing Nottawasaga Site), or Site 42 (Georgian Triangle, near Site 41).
“That’s going to have to be a decision Council will have to make,” McCullough said, acknowledging that the current climate is opposed to landfilling. “There’s nothing easy about waste.”
County Warden Cal Patterson told the meeting, “We’re looking for your input, going into the future. You’re going to be part of the solution here,” but the majority were not convinced.
While there were a few suggestions – hold “diversion days” across the County; go to a 1 bag limit with no option to purchase additional tags – most of the comments were critical. There were questions about the former Tecumseth Transfer Station, questions about the cost of the consultation process, criticism of Site 41.
“This is the same kind of dog and pony show… and you rushing things makes us more suspicious,” said one woman. “We don’t trust you – and you can take that back to Council.”
“Twenty years later – we are still at the same strategies. How much has that cost?” said another, urging the County to consider Energy from Waste. “We in this country are 120 years behind…. Site 41 was absolutely atrocious, even to think about it. Did you listen to the people? No. You just did what you wanted to do.”
As one resident noted, “The big elephant in the room is Site 41.”
Consultant Janine Ralph assured residents that “we are looking at other options, other than landfill,” and that there was no cut-off for their input. “We’re happy to receive your comments at any time… We want to work with you, and make sure you get that feedback.”
Despite a Feb. 16 deadline, “we’re not going to cut off any responses until the documents are before Council,” McCullough said.
Documents and workbooks are available online at wastestrategy.simcoe.ca