Claim that transfer station unrelated to site called ‘nonsense’
Newalta Corp. says there’s nothing “nefarious” about its decision to keep Taro’s community liaison committee in the dark about a proposed licence change at a north-end plant that could see more imported industrial waste go to the dump.
Communications director Greg Jones said the company didn’t raise the matter at the CLC’s Dec. 2 meeting because it’s “not related to the landfill’s operations.”
Newalta is seeking the Ministry of the Environment’s approval to expand its Brant Street transfer station’s service area, currently limited to Ontario, to all of North America.
The public has until Jan. 6 to comment on the application, posted on the province’s environmental registry on Nov. 22, the same day Newalta received ministry approval to raise the quarry dump’s height by nearly a third.
In return for the latter change, the company will limit the site to its existing footprint and vows to use clean fill to bring a remaining 18 hectares of empty quarry up to grade.
“It’s not something that is material to the landfill’s operations. It’s a separate facility and so we didn’t think to bring it up,” Jones said of the Brant Street bid. “It appears to me that people are looking for something nefarious here, but that’s not the case.”
Among the mandates of the CLC, according to its terms of reference, is to “review, comment and make recommendations on applications for new or revised proposals pertaining to the (dump) site.”
John Williams, the CLC’s citizen chair, said he “absolutely” believes the Brant Street application should have been raised if Taro is the end destination for shipments received there.
Newalta says the broader service area will allow it to take loads from other company operations, primarily in Quebec, where disposal charges are much higher than here.
“It’s quite the change; that’s a long way,” said Williams, adding he plans to get more details on the proposal and make sure other citizen members know of the Jan. 6 deadline so they can submit comments if they wish.
“Effectively we’ll just operate as informed citizens ourselves.”
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark, who is a CLC member but was unable to make the Dec. 2 meeting, called Newalta’s assertion the Brant Street plant isn’t related to the dump “nonsense.”
The plant can receive up to 8,000 tonnes of waste per day and will “significantly increase” the number of truckloads and imported waste going to Taro if the licence change is approved, he said.
“There is no rational explanation as to why they would not have informed the CLC and it is nonsense that their application is not going to impact the landfill,”Clark said. “I think they’re playing a semantic game to try to avoid public scrutiny.”
The application is also prompting the head of Environment Hamilton to question if Newalta is betraying an earlier commitment to reduce truck traffic in the north end.
Lynda Lukasik said cutting truck trips to and from the Brant Street plant was one of the key justifications the company gave when it successfully applied last year to expand the dump’s own service area to all of Ontario.
Taro had previously only been allowed to take waste directly from locations within Hamilton, requiring any shipment from elsewhere in Ontario to go to Brant Street.
Lukasik said any benefit the north end saw from the change to Taro’s service area “kind of gets cancelled out” if the Brant Street change is approved.
At open houses in the summer of 2012, Newalta said letting Ontario waste go directly to Taro would eliminate about 35,000 truck trips to and from Brant Street per year, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 135 tonnes.
Lukasik said she wonders if Brant Street will once again periodically “have trucks lined up around the corner onto Burlington Street waiting to get in,” as in the past.
She said the application also seems like “an end run” around Taro’s service-area restrictions, effectively making it a dump for North American waste, contrary to promises it would be used for local waste when the site was approved without public hearings in 1996.
Another Newalta plant on Imperial Street that uses cement and other treatments to render hazardous waste suitable for disposal at Taro can already take North American waste.
“Does that (Taro service area) serve an important purpose, and if it does, then is this sort of approach problematic?” Lukasik said. “If it doesn’t serve an important purpose, what is the point of it? That’s the fundamental question we need to be asking.”
But Jones said the change will merely see Brant Street take Quebec waste that presently goes to Imperial Street and doesn’t need processing, relieving traffic bottlenecks at the latter.
Brant Street will only take four or five loads per week on average, he said, rejecting that Newalta is doing an end run around Taro’s service area restrictions.
“It’s no different than the situation we had with Brant Street before,” he said of the period before Taro could take waste directly from Ontario locations outside of Hamilton.
But Clark said he sees the application as a step toward Newalta eventually seeking approval to fill Taro’s remaining 18 hectares of empty quarry with waste.
He said the city’s lawyers are drafting an official comment, but he doesn’t believe the company would go through the trouble and expense of changing Brant Street’s licence for four or five loads per week.
“That’s ridiculous and that again is just spin,”Clarksaid. “There’s a lack of trust now for me because the company keeps saying one thing and doing something else.”
Details of the application are available at ebr.gov.on.ca. The EBR registry number is 012-0499.