Wednesday, July 17, 2024
NewsTop Story

Concerns voiced over incinerator project at Friends of the Pontiac meeting

Charles Dickson
Ladysmith Nov. 16, 2023
Efforts to advance a proposed garbage incinerator project in the Pontiac “raised many red flags,” says a local elected official working on waste management.
Jennifer Quaile, a councillor in Otter Lake and that municipality’s representative on MRC Pontiac’s waste management committee, made the comments in a presentation at a public information meeting hosted by Friends of the Pontiac in Ladysmith last Thursday evening.
According to Quaile, it was clear from the beginning that the waste management committee on which she sits was not going to function in the way she thought it should.
“The committee had no specific mandate, no stated mission,” said Quaile. “For the first few meetings, it seemed this committee was a forum for the warden to convince everyone on the virtues of garbage incineration or energy from waste.”
“I believe there’s a public perception that the committee is a decision-making body, or at least one that can make recommendations to the Council of Mayors for consideration. Unfortunately, that is not the case,” she said.
Concerned that the warden’s solution to disposing of Pontiac’s 5,000 tons of garbage involved importing an additional 395,000 tons required to feed the $450 million incinerator, Quaile began to conduct her own research, an area of specialty as a former public policy researcher and advisor to the federal government.
“What I found in my research were so many red flags – I was actually appalled to see such a dramatic difference from what the warden had been portraying,” Quaile said in her Thursday evening presentation.
Quaile also recounted a number of incidents where she says she and others who attempted to raise their concerns were accused by the warden of being ‘environmentalists’ and were told she would not tolerate ‘fear mongering’.
“To our warden, valid questions and concerns are fear mongering. That is not right in a democracy,” said Quaile.
At one point, Warden Toller, one of the 25 people in the audience at the meeting, interrupted Quaile’s presentation.
“Is this meeting about me or about the incinerator project?” the warden asked.
Remo Pasteris, who moderated the event, reminded the warden and all in attendance that questions could be asked later, but that interruptions of presentations would not be tolerated.
Quaile told the audience that, in the face of her experience with the incinerator issue, she is dismayed but not discouraged, and outlined two areas where she feels change is needed.
“Our regional government – MRC Pontiac – needs to be more transparent . . . a space where mayors and councillors can speak up and members of the public can have their voices heard without being mocked.”

“We should be putting our efforts towards implementing a waste management plan that diverts waste through proven methods like recycling and composting,” she said.
“This would be good public policy, much more environmentally friendly and much less costly,” said the Otter Lake councillor.
Quaile concluded her remarks with a comment about the importance of a free press.
“The free press is, I might add, an incredibly important part of a democracy. As we have seen over the last several months with letters to the editor, the press provides a forum for the voices of the community when they cannot be heard at town halls or MRC meetings,” she said.
Quaile’s presentation was followed by Friends of the Pontiac member Linda Davis speaking on governance issues.
“This is an improper process,” she said. “We should have had a feasibility study. We should have found out what all technologies are available right now and let us have that open discussion.”
Davis recalled that at the warden’s town hall meeting in Shawville in mid-June, the warden said a business plan would be produced, that Deloitte was going to produce it and that it would cost $200,000.
“And I put up my hand and said ‘Before you tender the contract, you can’t say who the winner is going to be,’” Davis recounted.
Remo Pasteris, a Bristol resident and member of Friends of the Pontiac, drew on his science background with the federal government in his review of concerns over the environmental and human health impacts of garbage incinerators of the sort being proposed for the Pontiac.
In a conversation after the meeting, Pasteris emphasized his concern about toxic chemicals.
“Where do the toxic chemicals go? They have to go somewhere. They cannot simply disappear into thin air. Will they be in the emissions? Will they be in the bottom ash? What is the list of chemicals that this incinerator will be tested for, and what are the limits?” he asked.

FREE ACCESS FOR EQUITY SUBSCRIBERS

This article is available free to all subscribers to The Equity. If you are a subscriber, please enter your email address and password below.

SET UP YOUR ONLINE ACCOUNT

If you are a subscriber but have not yet set up your online account, please contact Liz Draper at liz@theequity.ca to do so.

HOW TO BECOME A SUBSCRIBER

To become a subscriber to The Equity, please use our Subscribe page or contact liz@theequity.ca