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Clark calls Taro redesign OK sellout to ‘corporate interests’

New bid seeks to import more North American waste

By Richard Leitner, News Staff

Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark is accusing the province of selling out the environment to “corporate interests” with the approval of a plan to raise the Taro dump’s height by nearly a third over the city’s objections.

Owner Newalta Corp. received Ministry of the Environment permission on Nov. 22 to proceed with the redesign, which Clark has predicted will leave neighbours staring at “mountain of crap” and experiencing more offsite dust and other nuisances.

But Greg Jones, the company’s communications director, said the decision reflects Newalta’s success in consulting the community on the plan over the summer and addressing any concerns.

In return for permission to pile waste 4.5 metres higher than originally approved in 1996, Newalta has vowed to limit the site to its existing footprint and use clean fill to bring a remaining 18 hectares of empty quarry by Green Mountain Road up to grade.

The change reduces the dump’s original area by about one-quarter, but it will now rise to 18.45 metres, or 60.5 feet, above ground level at its highest point. That’s up from the old limit of just shy of 14 metres, or nearly 46 feet.

“Like we stated all along, we think that it’s a beneficial thing, not just for us, but, in the long term, for the community and the environment,” Jones said.

Newalta has argued the smaller footprint will cut the volume of leachate the dump sends into the sewer by one-quarter, while benefitting neighbours by increasing the distance between waste and homes being built to the north.

The change also eliminates plans for a new entrance off Mud Street across from Penny Lane Estates.

But Clark, who was unaware of the approval until contacted by a reporter, said if the ministry were truly interested in public consultation on the redesign, it would have subjected it to an independent review.

The ministry instead deemed the plan a “technical amendment” to the dump’s operating licence, exempting it from an appeal process under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.

“The Ministry of the Environment, in my opinion, has become nothing more than a public relations body for the government,”Clark said. “They’re not protecting the environment. It’s all about protecting the corporate interests.”

The approval comes as Newalta has filed a new application seeking ministry permission to expand the service area of a Hamilton plant that ships waste to Taro to all of North America.

Jones said the Brant Street transfer station can presently only accept waste from Ontario and the change would allow it to take shipments from Newalta facilities in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

The company’s other Hamilton plant, located on Imperial Street, already services North America. Unlike Brant Street, it treats hazardous wastes, including to render them acceptable for disposal at Taro, licensed for sold, non-hazardous waste.

Jones said the Brant Street plant’s economic viability has been undercut by last year’s successful application to allow Taro to take wastes that don’t require processing directly from anywhere in Ontario.

The dump had previously only been permitted to accept wastes directly from locations in Hamilton, which required all outside shipments to first go to Brant or Imperial streets.

“For the most part, Brant Street’s been taken out of the equation, in terms of what we send to the landfill, so we needed to find a use for it,” Jones said.

“It’s primarily for our own materials, to keep things in-house that currently we might have to go elsewhere with.”

But Clark said he sees the application as the first step in Newalta coming up “with some cockamamie scheme” to fill the unused 18 hectares of quarry with more waste.

He said the application is especially galling because during the site’s approval amid vociferous opposition, people were repeatedly told it was needed to serve local industry.

“Now we can see that’s bull,”Clarksaid. “Why the hell should Hamilton receive Quebec’s waste? And how do we even know that the Quebec environmental process is akin to ours?”

Unlike with the dump redesign, the Brant Street application has been posted on the environmental registry, which makes the ministry’s decision subject to appeal. The public has until Jan. 6 to comment.

Geoffrey Knapper, district manager of the ministry’s Hamilton office, said the decision to exempt the redesign was made by the approvals branch in Toronto and likely reflects that the dump already underwent an environmental assessment in 1996.

The Brant Street plant, by contrast, significantly changes the intended use from when its licence was approved, he said.

Taro dump quick facts:

 – Upper Stoney Creek’s Taro industrial dump was approved by the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris without public hearings in July 1996

 – Under previous owner Philip Services Corp., the site became notorious for exploiting a loophole to take hazardous U.S. cyanide sludge – a loophole the Harris government closed by cabinet order in September 1999.

– Taro can accept up to 750,000 tonnes of solid, non-hazardous waste in any 12-month period.

– The company’s annual report for 2011 shows the dump received 874,156 tonnes of waste from that year, 694,183 of which came from Newalta transfer stations that accept waste from outside ofHamilton.

– According to Newalta, the site sent 87 million litres of leachate into the city’s sewer system last year.

– The province unilaterally scrapped the requirement for an on-site ministry inspector, funded by the company, in December 2011.

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