STILL PAYING THE PIPER, AND PAYING, AND PAYING…

At the request of Mayor Luciani, Walker Industries’ Darren Fry made a presentation to Council concerning the on-going monitoring of the Rice Road landfill Site.

For those who aren’t familiar with this piece of real estate, it’s an old dump on Rice Road, so far out of town that it would probably have a Pelham address, if it had an address. It operated as a municipal dump site from the 1950’s to the late 1986, although it wasn’t ordered closed by the Ministry of Ontario Environment (MOE) until the late 1990’s. Then in 2001 , it was ordered capped and monitored.

Ever since then, the City of Thorold, meaning it’s taxpayers, have been paying for constant maintenance and monitoring. According to the Mayor, that cost us about $160,000 in 2016 (that’s worth about 1-1/4% of your taxes.

The reason for the expense? They had to build a waste-water facility that Mr. Fry says is to sewage treatment standards and what he termed as one of the first dump wetlands site treatment facilities. In other words, the water from the treatment plant (mostly due to run-off) empties out into a swamp that they built for precisely that purpose. I asked about the quality of the water from the overflow by-pass pipe for heavy rains (he estimated maybe 10 times per year), but he said that the dilution from heavy runoff meant there was little difference in the quality.

The cap is a gas-impermeable type of clay that has positive air pressure pumped into it to keep the dump gases from escaping. In addition, the entire site is peppered with monitoring stations that measure air and water quality. Then, of course, there is the cost of monitoring, which includes labour and consumable items such as filters and detection media.

Phew! Okay, I get the cost, and Mr. Fry said that the monitoring will have to be done for many more years. So, what to do about it?

Councillors asked that question of Mr. Fry and he suggested that they might be able to lower some costs by less frequent monitoring or reducing site visits by remote monitoring, with the permission of the Ministry. As to one Councillor’s query about digging it up and getting rid of it, Mr. Fry told them that digging it all up and hauling it off to active sites would cost “multiple millions of dollars.” End of that suggestion. Besides, I hate to think what might be in there – no environmental regulations in the dump’s early days.

One Councillor asked about turning it into a park, which might be a permitted use. I have to ask though, how it’s going to save Thorold any money to spend a small fortune turning it into a park that no one would ever know was out there (except maybe Pelham residents), especially since it would still need to be monitored and maintained? It was asked how long this would go on. Probably decades, was the answer. Great. My grandkids, assuming they still live in Thorold can tell their kids why they have to pay for this.

Then Councillor Handley asked an interesting question. How many other dump sites of this sort, owned by individual municipalities, are there in Niagara? Most such sites were taken over by the Region, which would greatly spread out the cost. Good question, especially since the dump wasn’t closed until 1986, long after the Region was created against the wills of most everyone.

For now, though, we’ll just keep shelling out.

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