West Oro residents fear potential water contamination
By Sara Ross, Orillia Packet & Times December 3 2012
A group of residents are fighting to prevent Try Recycling from operating in the township.
“It’s because of the water,” said Susan Woods, director of West Oro Ratepayers’ Association (WORA). “It’s the drinking water for so many of us downstream.”
Try Recycling has been working toward operating a recycling transfer and processing facility on 62 acres at Line 7 and Old Barrie Road since 2009.
The London-based company, in operation since 1991, takes solid, non-hazardous waste — such as material from construction sites — and recycles them into saleable new products.
It submitted an application for a certificate of approval from the Ministry of the Environment in January 2011.
WORA members — made up of 300 families — have spent $40,000 seeking legal advice to fight the application and to hire consultants to review the company’s reports, conducted by Golder Associates.
WORA hired Ken Howard, a university professor and groundwater consultant. He concluded his report June 2012.
“(Howard) says (the Golder) report is flawed and this is a dangerous spot,” said Mark Scharf, of WORA. “We’re only 45-feet above an aquifer and this has got sandy, porous soil here so any pollutants can get into that aquifer fairly quickly.”
Howard noted the Golder report didn’t include aquifer vulnerability assessment, “which if conducted, would certainly indicate that shallow groundwater beneath the Oro moraine (and particularly beneath the site), to be highly susceptible to pollution from surface sources.”
Howard also found the close proximity of the water table to the quarry floor would provide little, if any, opportunity for contaminants to be attenuated.
The proposed site — on the edge of the Oro Moraine — is an old quarry, currently being used as a township work site.
Jim Graham, Try Recycling’s chief executive officer, said WORA’s reports only review the company’s preliminary studies.
“These reports were based on our initial submission (to the MoE),” he said. “The ministry reviews our preliminary studies and would have reviewed these comments to them.”
The ministry then asked for additional information and studies, Graham said.
Woods said WORA wasn’t informed of the updated testing.
“I don’t know that his updated reports had been shared with us,” she said. “It would be helpful to have that shared widely.”
Testing to date — done by Golder Associates — has concluded what the company had believed all along, Graham said.
“For the types of materials we’re going to be diverting, we won’t have any negative impact on the environment on the water, or any other aspect,” he said. “That’s something we were very careful about in site selection before we even began.”
All the materials collected will be solid and non-hazardous.
“Residents looking a it from a technical point of view should be very satisfied that we’ve done our due diligence and proven out all our original assumptions,” Graham said.
Try Recycling is doing its research as the site doesn’t want the liability of problems, he said.
“If we haven’t done the due diligence on it, it’s not something we’re going to go forward with,” Graham said.
In 2012, three Oro-Medonte residents appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board expressing concerns about planned zoning amendments that would allow the facility to be built on a corner of the Oro Moraine.
In March, the OMB concluded, “this was a use that was permitted on the site and that the applicants against could voice a lot of their concerns through the certificate of approval process,” Graham said.
No specific environmental measures are required on the site.
“We settled to take it to the MoE,” said Denis Paccagnella, one of the appellants.
Try Recycling is hoping to get its certificate of property use in the beginning of next year.
The certificate will manage all aspects of the operation, including air, noise, storm-water along with what type of materials can be taken in, the equipment used to process and more.
Once the certificate is obtained, the company will have to submit a site plan to the township.
“If they feel there are any mitigation features or landscaping that’s required over and above what we have submitted and been approved by the ministry, they can apply it at the site plan stage,” Graham said.
Oro-Medonte has approved environmental thing to ensure there will be no negative impact on the groundwater.
“From what we’ve seen so far there are no red flags popping up, but keep in mind there is still testing to be completed,” Mayor Harry Hughes said. “They’re continuing to proceed on the basis that things are looking positive.”
Along with the groundwater, WORA is concerned at the life of Oro-Medonte Site 11 landfill, Scharf said.
In January, Hughes told QMI, under the current diversion rate, Site 11 has a lifespan of seven years before it reaches capacity.
In the first year, Try Recycling is expecting to divert at least 50,000 tonnes of materials from local landfills.
“We identified landfills throughout Ontario that those non-recycled materials can go to,” he said, adding this does include Site 11.
Every year, Try Recycling must note how much material they didn’t recycle and where it went, Graham said.
The site will house a scale house and office, tipping areas throughout site, processing areas, final process areas and residential and commercial drop off areas. It will take about 60 days to construct the entire site, Graham said.
Initially, the company is expecting to hire 15 people.
“Our current facilities in London have 50 people employed and we would like to see it ramp up to that in three to five years,” Graham said.
They will be hiring heavy equipment operators, site managers and general labourers.