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Ministry assesses all complaints objectively: spokesperson Nixon filed an odour complaint in June 2011 a month after the current landfill accepted its last load of trash and was closed. Other complaints had been sent from areas in Carp, Kanata and Stittsville. Greg Davis, an environmental officer with the ministry, sent an email to his colleagues saying he felt there was no odour problem at the site and “misleading information” was being provided. “I feel these few people want the landfill site to smell at these locations to serve their purpose to fight the expansion plans of (Waste Management),” wrote Davis to his colleagues in response to Nixon’s letter. “They have exaggerated the odour complaints and in some cases I would conclude they have lied about the odours.” Nixon said if she filed an odour complaint, there was an odour problem. An email response to Nixon from Steve Burns, assistant director for the eastern region of the ministry, says that Davis’ remarks about there being no odour problems at the site were backed by field assessments, measures taken to mitigate any smells and an ongoing evaluation of public odour complaints. Burns added that he talked to Davis about limiting his comments and observations to facts. “On the matter of being unbiased and objective, I can confirm that Mr. Davis has taken a strong compliance approach against (Waste Management) for off-site odours adversely affecting residents and for other environmental compliance issues at the nowclosed Carp landfill site,” wrote Burns. “I can assure you that the ministry staff are committed to reviewing each and every odour complaint made by all members of the community in an unbiased and objective manner.” A ministry spokesperson responded to questions via email, saying the ministry will continue to answer community concerns.
“The ministry assesses each and every odour complaint in a factual and objective manner. Environmental officers respond to complaints and make observations about potential impacts. Their work is supported by a range of air, groundwater and surface water experts in the ministry,” wrote the ministry. “With respect to comments made by a ministry environmental officer related to odour complaints, the officer has been instructed to limit observations to facts. The ministry will continue to respond to any complaints and to assess the situation on its merits.” Waste Management didn’t return a request for comment. FOI REQUEST MADE BEFORE EA APPROVAL
The coalition submitted the FOI request in June 2013 but received no documents until November that year – two months after the environmental assessment was approved and “long past” the 30-day time limit to respond, said Nixon. “We actually had to ask the Ontario information and privacy commissioner to intervene to force the ministry to hand over the documents,” she said. The ministry said it worked with those who requested the documents “In the case of this FOI request, there was substantial discussions between the ministry and the requestors for many months to scope the requests. From July to Sept 2013, the ministry worked with the requestors to focus the requests to ensure we were providing them with relevant records,” wrote the ministry in its email response. West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry said he understands the community’s frustration with the ministry. “The local group are frustrated with the comment they heard from a staff person and I don’t blame them. They care about this community and they’re frustrated with the process,” he said.
“The ministry didn’t even notify the city that they were going to approve the EA. We heard about it through the media … They should have been more respectful.” The Ontario environment ministry caught all stakeholders off guard last September when it approved Waste Management’s proposed expansion to its Carp Road operation. Called the West Carleton Environmental Centre, the landfill will accept 400,000 tonnes of trash a year for 10 years. Other on-site facilities include those for renewable energy, composting, recycling and waste diversion. After about 20 public meetings, many residents’ submissions, the rise of opposition citizen groups, 18 councilbacked recommendations from the city, and a hand-delivered list from Mayor Jim Watson to the environment minister – the province still rejected public sentiment. “It just shows the weakness of Ontario’s environmental assessment process and that it is really tipped in favour of proponents,” said Nixon. “It’s the people of West Carleton, the people of Stittsville, the people of Kanata that will have to live with the consequences, the very negative consequences. “Ten years down the road, people are going to say, ‘How could this have happened?’ people are going to say, ‘How did this get approved?’ And we can look back to now and say flaws into the EA process … The ministry didn’t take into account the community’s comments and concerns.”
“We are working with the community and Waste Management to see if we can incorporate those conditions,” he said. “We’re still in the negotiating phase.” As Waste Management moves through the next stages of the approval process, Nixon hopes more people will get involved. “Hopefully we can leverage this attention to get a broader look at how wrong this decision was, that it wasn’t based on fact, that indeed the evidence that we put forward – to show that the landfill will cause harm to the both the environment and the community – is valid,” she said. “I’m not going to say this is over, but the window is closing.” With files from Derek Dunn
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Waste Management still has a number of approvals needed before the expansion is able to move ahead. One of the next steps is to apply to the city for zoning and site plan approval. The city has certain conditions it wants Waste Management to meet, including odour management, property value protection, traffic issues, groundwater monitoring and more, said El-Chantiry.
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Kanata Kourier-Standard March 20, 2014