Newly elected politicians confused over Adams Mine

According to a report in yesterday’s National Post newspaper, Mayor-elect David Miller says he remains opposed to any plan to ship Toronto’s garbage to the site near Kirkland Lake that is subject to revived efforts to develop it as a landfill.

“I can’t imagine anything would change my mind,” Miller was quoted as saying. “I’ve debated the issue twice since I’ve been elected [to council]. I’m thoroughly familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of it and I don’t think it’s a good solution for Toronto.”

Miller’s comments were made a few days after a consortium that owns the worked-out mine received tentative approval for a water-taking permit from the province’s environment ministry.

On Tuesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters that the project was still far from becoming a reality. (The new Premier campaigned on a promise to re-examine the safety of the landfill.)

“We have to have a full environmental assessment, not one that has been narrowly scoped, “Mr. McGuinty said. “Secondly, we need approval of the community that will be affected.”

These comments were interesting in light of the fact that the Adams Mine is already an approved project under the EA process and in fact does already have a willing host community. Moreover, while Miller is entitled to his preference that Toronto should divert more of its waste, it’s strange that Premiere McGuinty seems unaware that the Adams Mine has had a valid Certificate of Approval since 1998 that was issued by the environment ministry after a judicial review of the project’s EA. The Adams Mine has approval under both the provincial Environmental Assessment Act and the Environmental Protection Act.

David Ramsay, the Natural Resources Minister, said on Tuesday that he’d resign from Cabinet if the Adams Mine began operation as a landfill. Ramsay is the MPP for Timiskaming-Cochrane, home of the proposed site, and is a long-time opponent of the project. He made a similar pledge before the provincial election.

In 2000, Toronto councilors voted to reject a deal to transport the city’s garbage to the site. Instead, council signed a contract to transport the city’s waste to the Carleton Farms Landfill in Michigan, operated by Republic Services. That plan has since resulted in a considerable protest from Michigan activists and officials who oppose the daily convoy of 125 trucks that haul Toronto’s refuse across their border.

Michigan politicians have fought to place restrictions on imported garbage. They’ve attempted to reduce landfill space and screen trucks at the border rigorously, resulting in costly delays.

Gordon McGuinty, director of Notre Development, which controls the Adams Mine site, has confirmed his intention to go ahead with construction on the landfill with or without Toronto approval. (McGuinty is also the Premier’s second cousin.)

“I think there’s way too much onus put on the city of Toronto,” said McGuinty, who cited York and Peel as regions interested in sending waste to a future Adams Mine landfill.

“Michigan is moving on a monthly basis to frustrate or restrict getting across the border,” he said. “[Shipping our trash to Michigan] has become a national embarrassment and we have to find answers. As far as the McGuinty government, we’re doing them a favor by bringing this on-stream.”

The plan to convert the site into a landfill received approval under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act following a positive environmental-impact survey completed in 1999. But critics concerned about possible water contamination have argued the assessment was not thorough enough.

In the months to come, Solid Waste & Recycling magazine will closely monitor developments with Toronto’s garbage exports to Michigan, new and emerging technologies the city is considering for the 40 per cent of waste that can’t easily be recycled or composted, and any further approvals or construction of the Adams Mine site. The magazine will also examine the province’s hotly debated Environmental Assessment Act, with which various stakeholders have expressed different views and concerns. A recent decision by the province’s environment ministry not to appeal the striking down of Canadian Waste Service’s application to expand its Richmond Landfill has thrown the viability of the EA process in Ontario for various other projects into question.