Let’s talk about waste. No, not perceived expense account waste incurred by elected officials.
The waste that has captured my attention is about “garbage” and it is also about wasted opportunity. The entire surrounding vicinity blithely buried our accumulated waste at a 200 acre site on Britannia Road at Terry Fox Way. That site began operating in 1980 and functioned until 2002 when it reached maximum capacity and was eventually morphed into a public golf course (the BraeBen Course).
Those of you who did follow environmental and civic events around the time of eventual phase out of the Britannia Road waste site may recall that there was enormous public interest surrounding what was to be done with accumulated Greater Toronto Area (GTA) waste management once the Britannia Road site closed its doors. There was talk of shipping waste from GTA to Kirkland Lake and stashing it in an abandoned mine at Kirkland Lake (the infamous Adams Mine).
Good buddy, fellow singer of songs and Member of Parliament, Charlie Angus led the charge in bringing the ill-advised Adams Mine project to a screeching halt. The plan was ill-advised from the get-go and (as a byproduct/unintended consequence) would have flushed over three hundred million liters every year into the nearby Misema River. The scheme was to employ fresh water under pressure to assist in containment of trucked-in garbage that was to be stored 300 feet below surface in the fractured rock tunnels of an abandoned mine.
There was a lot written about the scheme while the debate took place. Thank God, common sense prevailed and the Adam Mines project disappeared from public consciousness. In its path towards eventual rejection, several names came to the public’s attention among the proponents: Donald McGuinty, Canadian Waste Services and Waste Management Inc..
The story of the Adams Mine fiasco are interwoven with allegations of a history of ecological transgressions such as illegal dumping of medical waste, hiding environmental problems related to landfill sites from the public and liability for cleanup costs at problem landfill sites. The tactics employed by those attempting to promote the Adams Mine project forward included: allegations that its officials had employed wiretapping of opponents of landfill expansions, computer fraud, the rigging of landfill contracts and improper attempts to influence public officials.
McGuinty would later author several books and is still an active public speaker. One of his books (Trashed) gives rise to much of his current focus, how to “manage public opposition to your project”.
Turning back to the GTA, the solutions found as alternatives to Adams Mine included shipment of household waste to sites in Michigan and convenient 20 year contract (signed in 1992) with Algonquin Power to burn 160,000 metric tonnes of waste annually at a cost of $91 per tonne.
The hidden story about waste is that it can be both a problem and a resource. If you have huge amounts of waste and do not know what to do with it; it is a huge problem. On the other hand, it is fact that a by-product of waste is energy. If one finds environmentally safe methods of turning waste into energy, an almost infinite source of energy becomes available.
Thinking back to the allegations surrounding the failed Adams Mine project, it is obvious that we are talking about enormously high stakes. Moreover, as the Britannia Road landfill site morphed into the BraeBenn Golf Course, things continued to happen below ground. It was disclosed when the landfill site shut down (in 2002) that decaying waste beneath the surface was producing a gases (such as methane) that were now available for combustion and were ready to produce gas powered electricity.
The consumer/taxpayer would be wise to ask meaningful questions of all “Regional” candidates in the upcoming October Municipal elections. We are about to have our weekly household waste collection cut into half and (at the same time) will be burdened with a nice/spiffy (and expensive) waste container to be presented to each residence in Brampton.
To me, these types of announcements create many questions. Similar to many others, I do not enjoy watching the channel being changed and resent misinformation. I shall be asking those running for Regional Office to convince me that they are “on top of” the waste management file. As homeowners and residential ratepayers, you have every reason to expect answers. According to the 2014 Consolidated Budget for the Region of Peel, over $800 million is being collected for waste management. Your Regional Council has placed us back into the worrisome times when Britannia Land Fill Site was being closed. They decided to opt out of the contract with Algonquin Power for the combustion of waste without showing an alternative ready to roll out.
We are entitled know about plans. Failure to plan always results in excessive emergency and contingency costs. We are certainly entitled to know what is happening with revenue streams (gas etc) derived from waste management.
I spent considerable time with the Consolidated 2014 Budget for the Region of Peel and consider myself a patient reader. I have HUGE problems with the lack of transparency contained in that budget document as it relates to waste management. I think I will also be asking aspiring Regional Candidates if they (too) feel that taxpayers deserve complete and transparent financial disclosures. Frankly, the Budget document (available on line) is not worthy of a high school term paper. Flipping through previous budgets, there seems to be a constant addition of amounts of several hundred thousand dollars each year labeled as capital costs. It is reasonable to explain to the public how much (if any) of these regular capital infusions will be abandoned as a result of the Algonquin contract cancellations. The existing budget document disorganized, relies on unexplained argot, is populated with meaningless illustrations and falls (very) short of meaningful disclosure.