Ministry backs down on Clean Harbors landfill order

Cathy Dobson in The Observer

ST. CLAIR TOWNSHIP — The deputy mayor is not happy.

Peter Gilliland says a government decision to revoke an order for Clean Harbors to truck foul-smelling leachate from its Telfer Road site is nonsense.

“If you write an order, stick with it,” Gilliland said Friday after learning the Ministry of Environment has reconsidered a directive to the hazardous waste treatment facility requiring the immediate relocation of large volumes of smelly leachate.

Neighbours who live as far away as six and seven kilometres from the facility — the only one of its kind in Ontario — have regularly complained since early August of a stench so strong it can make them vomit and drive them from their homes.

The MOE told Clean Harbors Oct. 21 that some of the leachate would have to be relocated, but backed down after numerous meetings last week with company officials.

“The company has demonstrated it can properly treat the leachate at the site through incineration,” said MOE spokesperson Kate Jordan.

“They have also made a commitment to increase the rate of incineration so, for these reasons, we now require the leachate to be treated there, rather than relocate it.”

Jordan said the ministry issued a new director’s order Friday indicating it expects Clean Harbors to “ramp up” incineration of the septic leachate in its lagoons right away.

The order includes timelines and volumes to ensure there is steady progress, Jordan said.

It also requires the company to meet all ministry air standards to ensure there are no adverse impacts.

“This makes me very skeptical,” said a frustrated Gilliland, who is a member of a citizen’s liaison committee with Clean Harbors.

“They’ve had all this time in the last three months to do this and made no progress. I don’t think they are capable of incinerating so much volume.”

Gilliland said he doesn’t believe the frequent odour incidents plaguing the township will be addressed.

“All Clean Harbors wants to do is make sure their profits aren’t impacted. It costs a lot of money to truck the leachate away,” he said.

Phil Retallick, senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Clean Harbors, said cost has nothing to do with the company’s request to handle its leachate on-site.

“We can’t find any Canadian locations to take the leachate and it will take too long to get Environment Canada approval to take it to the U.S.,” Retallick said.

“Since we’re under the gun, we will start burning more imminently.”

He said commercial contracts to use the incinerator had tied up the facility but will now be rerouted to other facilities.

Jordan said the company has also applied to the MOE to build a waste water treatment facility to deal with excess water on site that would otherwise be incinerated.

A waste water facility should free-up capacity for the incinerator to handle more leachate, she said.

Incineration shouldn’t create any adverse smell, Jordan added. “Odours are combusted through incineration. Our number one priority is to reduce volumes and odours.”

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