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Waste debate a matter of trust

In Simcoe County
Feb 16th, 2010

By DOUGLAS GLYNN Barrie Examiner
Simcoe County officials are having to overcome public trust issues as they try to move forward on ways to deal with garbage over the next two decades.
That was apparent last Wednesday when the county and staff from Stantec Consulting hosted the last of three public open houses designed to explain progress being made in developing a waste management strategy and to elicit public comment and suggestions.
County Warden Cal Patterson told a crowd of about 100 people in Midland, Wednesday, to “be gentle,” because the meeting wasn’t about controversial landfill Site 41, but rather how the county can handle garbage over the next 20 years.
The county has stated it wants to further increase diversion and to reduce the amount of garbage requiring disposal. The county’s diversion programs now manage more than half the waste generated in Simcoe County.
The majority of those in attendance at the Midland meeting were veterans of the summer-long battle to stop Site 41.
While Patterson said the meeting was not about the controversial landfill, the questions and speeches signalled that, for many, the war is far from over.
Patterson said the county’s waste management steering committee has held some productive meetings.
“They have come up with possible solutions for the future, but no decisions have been made,” he said. “They’ve got a list of opportunities and recommendations. We are looking for the same from you tonight.”
County councillors voted last September to abandon controversial landfill Site 41, which was being developed north of Elmvale, following staunch public opposition and an organized campaign against its construction. The chief concern was that the dump could contaminate local groundwater, purported to be some of the freshest on Earth.
Officials from Simcoe County and Stantec Consulting hosted public open houses to investigate better ways to deal with garbage in the future. The meetings were held last Monday in Alliston, Tuesday in Wasaga Beach and Wednesday in Midland.
Rob McCullough, the county’s manager of environmental services, says the meetings should revolve around waste diversion and lessening the amount of garbage that is buried in the ground, with the ultimate goal being zero waste.
One of the major concerns voiced at the Midland meeting centred on ending the use of landfills in favour of adopting a zero waste approach to waste management.
One woman, who claimed she had attended all three meetings, said the process is a charade, “because Simcoe County has already decided what it’s going to do and it’s not zero waste.”
Tiny Township mayoral candidate Ray Millar, a former chair of the Site 41 community monitoring committee, sharply criticized the county’s decision to rush the process of developing a strategy.
“For several years, I’ve been advocating that the county create a waste management master plan, which is a legislated requirement of the provincial
policy statement for all municipalities of over 100,000,” he said. “To suggest that it came upon them suddenly and has to be done in six months is really quite incorrect.
“We do ourselves a disservice if we rush this process,” Millar added. “It’s more important that we get it done right, rather than we get it done quick.”

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