By Laurie McCannell, Vice-president Dump This Dump
For years, people driving to Ottawa have been unable to ignore the expanding landfill at Carp Road West of Kanata. The operators of the site make no effort to disguise their “mountain”, even perching a jolly Santa Claus on its peak for the holidays. That the enormous mound is a by-product of our collective wastefulness isn’t merry, no matter how they dress it up. Underneath Santa’s reindeer and the grass that has been planted, that huge landfill is leaking into West Kanata’s water table, and it is not alone.
The above map is extracted from a report commissioned by the City of Ottawa. I have highlighted the abandoned landfills throughout Ottawa’s core area in orange to make them easier to see. Please note this only identifies the landfill hazards in the central part of the city – there are 3 additional maps covering sites throughout the greenbelt and suburbs. Now, why would the city want to identify these sites? According to law, municipal governments are responsible for cleaning up contaminated sites like these – this is about Ottawa’s financial liability and as the map suggests, the ultimate bill to taxpayers is going to be steep.
Knowing that there are over 100 abandoned landfills lurking beneath our homes and parks is alarming, and it highlights the problem of proliferating waste sites. The damage was done over many years, but have we learned our lesson?
Sadly, no. Operating within Ottawa today are 5 major landfill sites – more than within any other municipality in Ontario. 2 of these locations are managed by the city, one by the NCC and 2 by private companies – including the West Kanata landfill which continues to accept a small volume of waste while the operators are trying to double its size. Unlike the old landfills speckling the map, these sites are huge (more than 30 city blocks each for comparison), and one day in the future, the bill will arrive for them too.
So why are there so many? The City of Ottawa manages municipal waste (curb-side pickup) only. All other waste called “IC&I” (excluding hazardous medical and nuclear substances), from businesses and institutions and construction, is handled by private garbage companies under the remote oversight of the Province of Ontario. There is no limit to how many of these private enterprises can set up landfills in a city if they feel they can operate them profitably – and they do.
Taggart Construction (Tamarack Homes) and Miller Waste announced plans to build their own landfill in Ottawa in 2012. The partner companies promote their “CRRRC” project as pro-recycling, but they do not commit to recycle more than the IC&I provincial average of 13%, instead “hoping” to achieve higher diversion rates sometime during the next 30 years. Although the project includes a sorting centre and some composting, the largest component by far would be a brand new landfill, targeting 450 acres of field and forest in Cumberland Ward. That is 4 times the size of the bloated West Kanata landfill at Carp road.
We think Taggart Miller’s landfill is a terrible idea. The farmers and residents of Carlsbad Springs, Edwards, Vars and Russell have formed Dump this Dump 2 and the CRCCPE group (www.crccpe.ca ) to tell Taggart Miller Waste, the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario that building mega-landfills in Ottawa stops now.
Ultimately, the waste industry is enjoying heady times because as a society, our IC&I waste enables them, and our elected governments permit them. Both problems are complex but will not change unless we decide to change – and that change has started here in the Farm-belt of Ottawa - Cumberland Ward.
CRCCPE supports recycling and diversion-only projects like the facility on Herbert Street near Bearbrook village in Cumberland Ward, and another new recycling centre under construction on Burton Road near Vars. Both of these facilities are within 6km of Taggart Miller’s proposed landfill and plan to take the exact same waste Taggart Miller would. These recycling centres would sort out the useful materials but not create new landfills, making them preferable over Taggart Miller’s large landfill project.
CRCCPE supports reducing waste from institutions, businesses and construction. We applaud evolved companies who ensure their waste is separated to make recycling easier. Every office and company can implement these procedures and they should.
CRCCPE puts forward positive suggestions. For example, provincial estimates say Ottawa produces roughly 500,000 tonnes of “IC&I” waste annually, but our area already has annual capacity for over 1,000,000 tonnes, and some existing landfills aren’t filling their annual quota. The landfill projects currently proposed in Ottawa would push the total close to 2 million tonnes of disposal capacity per year. Clearly, Ottawa has abundant existing landfill space so CRCCPE suggests we support Ontario’s waste policy and the Green Capital initiative, and not approve excess landfill capacity. By hosting too much landfill space, we invite trash imported from Southern Ontario, and undermine efforts to boost recycling.
CRCCPE is not alone. We love our city and we welcome help from everyone who: wants to enjoy fresh local food, wants clean air and water, wants to move beyond the mountains of trash and be more responsible. Improving how we deal with waste is really improving how we manage our resources – the raw materials that become garbage, the land where we pile and bury garbage, the vital water in the ground and the air we breathe. Everyone wins when we dump dumps – join us.