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Incinerator town hall series wraps up

Stopping the project requires 10 mayors to vote against it, but there is no plan for another vote, says warden

by Charles Dickson
Campbell’s Bay & Otter Lake
Apr. 9 & 10
The series of five town hall-styled meetings hosted by MRC Pontiac to present its “initial business case” on the proposed garbage incineration project concluded last week with the final sessions held on Tuesday evening in Campbell’s Bay and on Wednesday evening in Otter Lake.
At both events, Jane Toller, the warden of MRC Pontiac, welcomed the people gathered, estimated to be slightly more than a hundred in Campbell’s Bay and slightly fewer in Otter Lake.
Both meetings opened with the image of a 2008 issue of THE EQUITY projected on the screen, featuring a front-page story about the plan to build a garbage incinerator near Shawville. The warden described how subsequent councils explored options for an incinerator up until 2012.
“In the end, there was insufficient tonnage to move forward,” she said, explaining that there was a suggestion at the time to investigate possibilities to secure garbage in Gatineau and Ottawa.
“So, I think that this clarifies a lot about our history, and that it [the proposal for a garbage incinerator] hasn’t just started this year with the current MRC Council of Mayors,” she said.
When the warden turned things over to Corey Spence, mayor of Allumettes Island, to make the presentation, he prefaced his remarks with a description of the warden’s motivation in advancing the project.
“Over the past year, Warden Toller diligently navigated the complexities of the energy-from-waste issue, with the hope of exploring a project where the Pontiac could play a leading role in the new paradigm of the circular economy,” he said.
Spence continued with a reference to a video recording in which Dr. Paul Connett, a long-standing critic of garbage incineration, enumerates a range of his concerns about the environmental, health and economic consequences of the technology.
“Unfortunately, a video was widely circulating in social media effectively sowing fear and uncertainty with regards to waste-to-energy technologies, even before the MRC had a chance to fully contemplate the project,” Spence said.
In the ensuing exchanges at both gatherings, much of the same ground was covered as in previous presentations, both in terms of what was presented and how the audience reacted. Farmers raised their concerns about the effect that pollution from the incinerator falling on agricultural lands could have on consumer demand for their products. Some raised the issue of the potential contamination of Pontiac’s environment and the impact it would have on tourism in the area. Others expressed worries about the health implications, including cancer, and our already over-burdened health care system. Concern was raised about the impact on our highways. And, as with the previous meetings, the audience of a hundred people, plus or minus, was overwhelmingly opposed to the project.
Colleen Larivière, the mayor of Litchfield, the municipality in which the MRC intends to locate the proposed incinerator, was in the audience at the Campbell’s Bay meeting.
“The Litchfield municipal council has made very clear their stand on the incinerator. We oppose it, we adopted a motion that we’re opposed,” she said.
“We have 5,000 tons of garbage in the Pontiac. That’s what we should be talking about,” she said to loud applause. “We’ve been talking about composting and recycling at the MRC for three years now. We haven’t gotten very far. Let’s work on that,” Larivière said.
In light of the opposition at both meetings, the warden commented that it is a minority of the people who are opposed to the project who come to the meetings, while people who support it stay home. She said that the environmental assessment, when everyone is consulted, would provide a better indication of the level of support for the project.
One man asked what tipping point would need to be reached for the MRC to abandon this project.
“Or do you intend to carry on with this despite angry meetings all over the place? If you’re not getting the drift by now, I don’t know if you ever will,” he asked.

“It would be when 10 mayors decide they don’t want to study this any further,” the warden replied. “But we also are not planning to have a vote for a while, so there’s nothing to vote on,” she clarified.
MRC posts initial business
case online and then takes it down
Meanwhile, the initial business case produced by consulting firms Deloitte and Ramboll, the subject of the series of public meetings which the warden had promised would be made available to the public as of last Thursday, was initially posted on the MRC website and then pulled down.
In a statement issued on Monday of this week, the MRC alluded to an apparent disagreement between MRC Pontiac and the two firms over a detail of the contract governing publication of the document.
“We were advised Friday morning by the parties involved that releasing these documents violated a third-party confidentiality clause that was written into the contract to commission the analysis,” the statement read.
“In our opinion, these documents are in the public domain since they were paid for with taxpayers’ money. That said, we have for the time being removed the links to the documents while we carry out legal verifications concerning the publication of these documents.”

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