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Dump must be trashed in order to rebuild trust

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In Simcoe County
Feb 17th, 2010
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Barrie Examiner editorial
Public trust is an integral ingredient to good government, but once lost is tough to regain.
The County of Simcoe is discovering this as it attempts to develop a new waste management strategy. Three public open houses last week had a familiar theme.
That would be Site 41, the Tiny Township property which was, until last year, the location for Simcoe County’s new landfill site.
County council eventually bowed to public pressure and abandoned its plans for Site 41.
But it won’t go away, despite the obvious dilemma of what’s to do with waste generated by the county’s 16 municipalities during the next 20 years.
One reason is that there is still a Certificate of Approval, issued by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, that allows Site 41 to be operated as a landfill.
Site 41 opponents — fearful the property could be sold to private interests, then opened and operated as a dump — have asked the county to direct the MOE to revoke the certificate.
This has not happened yet, and the opposition to Site 41 has not dissipated.
In short, Site 41 opponents don’t trust the county. They point out that it waged a 20-year battle to build and operate a landfill on prime farm land, over a clean source of water, despite substantial public opposition.
Now that county council has backed down on Site 41, its opponents don’t want the door left open — not even a crack — for a landfill there.
Revoking that MOE Certificate of Approval would go a long way toward restoring public trust.
That trust is required if the county hopes to move ahead on a new waste management strategy. And move ahead it must.
At the start of 2009, only three of the county’s six landfills — Nottawasaga, Oro and Tosorontio — had remaining capacity, about 767,000 cubic metres. With about 110,000 cubic metres of capacity being used last year, the math alone shows the need.
Short-term options include modifying existing landfills, to increase their capacity, or to use landfills outside Simcoe.
Full user-pay for every bag, increasing the recycling container capacity, more depots for bulky goods, clear garbage bags, to identify recyclable materials, education and promotion are being considered for the waste management strategy.
It could also consider whether to contract out the process of recycling materials and handling organics, or build such a facility in Simcoe County.
But the clock is clearly ticking.
Public information sessions on a waste management have been scheduled for the week of May 3, and the plan is to have a new strategy ready for Simcoe County council approval in June.
If county council wants to meet this schedule, it requires the public’s trust. Do county councillors and staff really want to keep hearing about Site 41 as they try to develop a waste management strategy?
Perhaps this schedule is too aggressive, too ambitious and too rushed. That’s already been suggested by some.
But this problem isn’t going away, even if the so-called ‘zero waste’ strategy is the objective. It won’t happen overnight.
We are, unfortunately, a throw-away society — despite our best recycling efforts.
Simcoe County needs a waste management strategy its residents will support, so public trust is a must.
Closing the door on Site 41, and nailing it shut, would go a long way toward regaining that trust.

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