Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – March 13, 2024

Cockamamie idea

Dear Editor,
The Pontiac continues to lurch from one pipedream to another. Every few years, it seems, a new, larger than life plan to bring great prosperity to the area is being promoted, either by some passing PT Barnum impersonator or by our warden. Several years ago, with great fanfare, an investor was supposedly going to put $7 billion into a project at Fort Coulonge. It didn’t happen. Then, a few years later, a community pool costing millions was on the cusp of being built. That hasn’t happened. Next, we were on the verge of a lumbering renaissance, and it was said that all the mills would re-open. In fairness, one did - but only one. And now, we’ve moved on to the next act, with the promise of our very own half-billion dollar garbage incinerator!
Why on earth would we in the Pontiac want this?
The financial cost is staggering, the risk of contamination, pollution and high carbon emissions have been proven in other regions, and we would need to import more than 90 per cent of the waste from Ontario to fuel it. The Pontiac only generates a bit over 5,000 tons of waste annually. When all the burning is done, the Pontiac would be left with 100,000 tons of toxic waste ash to get rid of every year. If this sounds like it doesn’t make any sense for us, it doesn’t.
Certainly, some jobs would be created, and some hydro and steam could be generated, but at what cost, both financially and at the potential expense of our environment? That question is yet to be answered.
The warden has stated that the steam produced could be used to heat buildings, since it can be piped more than 50 km, and the Shawville hospital is only 26 km away from the proposed incinerator site. She stopped short of filling us in on what the cost of building a steam pipeline from Portage to Shawville would be . . . but maybe that’s the next act.
This whole idea is a total ‘pipe’ dream, in my opinion. The environmental risks are not worth taking for a small region with a tourism-based economy that has a relatively small amount of its own generated waste and an even smaller tolerance for the financial risks involved.
The warden and mayors need to refocus their efforts on realistic, achievable goals for waste management, not pipe dreams. We are both afraid of and uninterested in their political legacy/vanity project. They need to wake up and realize they must ditch this dead horse. We are not interested in any mega-projects, only good, responsible governance.
Let’s not be sold another bill of goods, Pontiac. Contact your local councilors, mayors, and the warden to let them know how you feel. Failure to do so could result in this cockamamie idea getting passed and sealing Pontiac’s future.

Gerry Bimm, Otter Lake

Burning plastic

Dear Editor,
After almost 50 years, the dismal results of recycling in Canada are in. Information provided by the Plastic Action Centre (of which Walmart Canada is a founding sponsor), reveals that only nine per cent of all plastics make it to recycling. The remaining 86 per cent are landfilled, four per cent incinerated and one per cent ends up in lakes and oceans.
Recently, recycling from England was traced to Bulgaria where an underground economy had been uncovered. A cement factory was found being paid to use non-recycled plastics as fuel rather than coal to operate their plant. It turns out that plastics actually burn great and provide as much energy as coal, though there is one terrible drawback to this practice: among the many toxins emitted are dioxins, furans, and ultra-fine particulates known as nanoparticles, as well as more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than are produced by burning coal.
What other industry burns plastics you ask? Energy-from-waste (EFW) incinerators, of course. We are being reassured that no recyclables will be burned in the EFW proposed for the Pontiac, and I’m sure that’s an easy offer to make since only nine per cent of our plastics are currently being recycled anyway. That leaves the other 91 per cent of non-recycled plastics available for incineration. A documentary out of Vancouver tracked household recycling material going straight to the EFW plant in Burnaby.
Currently, monitoring of emissions is quite inadequate to protect the public and environment. Only a handful of pollutants are monitored continuously at the stack in real time, while most toxic pollutants are monitored less than one percent of the operating time. These toxins contaminate air, water and soil and are a huge concern for dairy farmers, organic farmers and others who keep livestock. Recently, people living near Paris were told not to eat the eggs of their chickens due to the high concentrations of dioxins found near the waste incinerator of Ivry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne). Similar results were also found in the Netherlands in the vicinity of their newest incinerator built in 2013.
Let’s draw these lines back to the garbage burning plant proposed for the Pontiac. Its location will be the Litchfield industrial park, on the banks of the Ottawa River where, within a 10 km radius, can be found some of Pontiac’s best agricultural land and most important dairy, grain and seed, grape, poultry, and organic market gardening farms, not to mention the villages of Portage du Fort and Bryson.
Are we really ready to risk all this just to take care of Pontiac’s so-called “garbage problem”? Instead, let’s manage our own waste by empowering ourselves to seek out creative solutions for our own unique municipal needs.
The public information session on Mar. 2 was an example of true citizen advocacy that hopefully will inspire others in our community to take action and support grass roots groups in this David and Goliath garbage burning scenario in which Pontiac currently finds itself.

Christine Anderson, Thorne

Response to warden

Dear Editor,
Warden Toller made reference to our Facebook group Pontiac Independent in her recent letter to the editor (Death, taxes and garbage, THE EQUITY, Feb. 28, 2024).
While she would have your readers believe that we are against researching the best solutions for our waste, we have always advocated for transparency, meaningful public engagement, and accountability from our elected offices, including in regards to the EFW project.
In fact, Pontiac Independent asked the Council of Mayors to research the implications of an EFW, rather than take the word of the project’s main promoter, whose ties and public statements remain questionable at best.
Further, we feel it is our civic duty to question a process that would exclude citizen participation until legally obliged, and to highlight questionable or conflicting statements and actions, such as:

  • leading Renfrew County council to believe the Minister of Environment approved of the project and would visit the proposed site in March, later retracting her statement;
  • proposing to dispose of 20 times more hazardous incinerator ash in Litchfield than we generate locally, while adamantly opposing landfills;
  • offering the possibility to excavate existing and closed landfills in order to prevent breaches of contract and keep the incinerator operative.

Zero waste demands cooperation from all levels of government, manufacturers, retailers and consumers for effectiveness. Warden Toller says, “it is a lifestyle requiring daily decisions” implying it would be easier to burn everything, including our tax dollars, rather than make environmentally friendly choices. Does she doubt the abilities of her elected offices, and that of citizens to make such daily decisions?
The Covanta incinerator, the facility on which the warden bases her presentations, costs York-Durham more than $15 million to operate, on top of generated revenue, annually. Currently, Pontiac spends $1.7 million for waste management. Considering the expense of feasibility studies, consultants, lawyers, business plans, construction, etc., the costs become astronomical. Why should Pontiac residents be responsible to pay an exorbitant amount of taxes just to burn everyone else’s garbage?
Death, taxes, and garbage may be certain, but we can take steps to mitigate waste production responsibly, and eliminate the need to increase our taxes!

Pat Goyette, Fort Coulonge
Amy Taylor, Chapeau

Let MRC do its job

Dear Editor,
As a resident of Pontiac, I support the MRC’s proposed project on energy from waste. After reading last week’s Equity, I felt it was important to respond to all the negativity given by these so-called experts and special interest groups. I prefer to wait and hear what the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health of Quebec have to say on this.
This project is not going to happen overnight, there will be impact studies and public hearings etc. on a project of this size.
I support our mayors and the work they have been doing for the county. They do not have an easy job, continually being criticized for something that could be economically sustainable for the Pontiac, if approved. You know the old saying, “it is easier to criticize than do the job yourself”!
If the “Friends of the Pontiac” are really serious about the health and well-being of the people of the Pontiac, what are they doing about what is happening up river from here? What is being planned at Chalk River can have a far more damaging impact on the health of the people of the Pontiac than a proposed waste disposal site. Why is there so much cancer in Pontiac County and Renfrew County?
Let the MRC do its job and if the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health of Quebec determine this is not a safe way to go, then it won’t happen, simple as that.
A proud Pontiacer!
Helen Routliffe, Fort Coulonge

Toxic ash and dioxin

Dear Editor,
It was very informative to attend the Saturday Mar. 2 public meeting in Campbell’s Bay regarding the proposed incinerator. Organized by Judy Spence and the newly-formed group, Citizens of the Pontiac, the main event was three well-received, informative Zoom presentations, now available online:
Dr. Paul Connett, retired PhD chemist from England and author of The Zero Waste Solution, made a compelling case against the incineration concept. For example, once the contract is signed, the municipality will be obligated to supply 400,000 tons of waste annually, thus penalizing future attempts at waste reduction or recycling.
Shocking fact #1: Garbage is 25 per cent ash, so when we burn 400,000 tons, we will be left with 100,000 tons of toxic ash annually. This requires a toxic landfill site of its own, eventually creating a giant toxic mountain on the landscape. If the incinerator needs to be shut down for repairs, the garbage flow does not stop, and you will also need a landfill site for that.
Wendy Bracken is a Durham Region (Ontario) resident who has been active in opposing the incinerator built there by the same company proposing the Pontiac project. It has been touted by proponents here as “state of the art”. Wendy’s video presentation details a chilling list of mis-steps dealing with the monitoring and exceedance of toxic dioxin emissions at this incinerator.
Dioxin is serious stuff. For example, the incinerator near Paris, France was built in 2007. In 2022, a warning was issued for backyard chicken owners in a 10 km radius not to eat the eggs, due to high dioxin levels.
A new concern with incinerators (in fact, combustion of any kind) is nanoparticle emissions, which is a very recent field of research. Nanoparticles have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, and health effects are not well understood yet. Nanoparticles have no weight, and therefore don’t show up (yet) in emissions monitoring or regulations. One gram equals three quadrillion (3,000,000,000,000,000) nanoparticles. Therefore, the precautionary principle should apply for this reason alone.
Spending $120,000 on a business study is a waste of taxpayer dollars – the public health costs will be presumed as non-existent for a “state-of-the-art” project with “the most up-to-date” pollution control equipment. Sadly, air quality regulation (and enforcement) is a provincial jurisdiction in Canada and is behind the times. NO INCINERATOR!
Norbert Senf, Shawville

The R’s of Waste

Dear Editor,
Reducing: In the long run, this is the most effective means of diminishing the overload of plastic waste. However, we as consumers of manufactured goods have little say in how those products are wrapped. We have no leverage with the industrialists in Asia.
Reusing: The next step, once we have the excess packaging in our possession, is to find ways to make it a useful resource, rather than waste which must be hauled away and dumped. Yogurt is a major part of my diet, so I accumulate a large amount of empty containers. They are far too useful to toss out after one use. Wash them out (because dairy product remnants go smelly pretty soon) and poke some holes in the bottom, and you have planters for tomatoes, etc. Before the federal government banned plastic grocery bags, I used them as waste basket liners, or to wrap and store things which would deteriorate in moisture. Those bags were among the least-troublesome plastic products for disposal, but that was where the out-of-touch regulations began. Now, everything we buy is wrapped in plastic, but we can’t use a plastic bag to take it home. Then all our garbage will be wrapped again in plastic bags (the same kind of plastic) as it’s hauled to the dump and beyond. Go figure.
Repurposing: Metal scrap is among the easiest waste streams to repurpose. Those metal tubes from the metal frames that support tarp garages until a big wind bends, folds and mutilates the frame and tears the tarp often show up in metal recycling bins, and are useful for garden stakes, pothole markers, bicycle racks, etc. The outdated satellite dishes are excellent downspout catchments. They are meant to withstand the elements. I haven’t worn one out yet, and I have been using them for years. Corrugated cardboard is a marvellous material. Some friends are ardent Amazon customers and I ask them to keep the boxes for me. Amazon uses high-quality cardboard. The boxes are good for storage, and if you over-accumulate, they can be shredded for kindling or used to balance the feedstock in a worm bin or composting. Flattened cardboard makes a good light mulch for the garden. I also visit the stores that specialize in high turnover low-cost items, because their cardboard is softer, thus easier to shred for the worm bin.
Recycling: This is the current darling of waste management protocols, but it actually has limited effectiveness. Metal and glass are fairly easy to recycle – something that has been established for decades. But plastic recycling is partly bogus. Of the seven types of plastic recycling labels, only three are recyclable in a practical sense. Two are theoretically recyclable, but not economically feasible. You’ve probably heard someone say, as an argument against doing anything about garbage, that the recycling just gets dumped into the landfill along with everything else. When and if that happens, it may be because too much organic matter was in the batch, and the handler doesn’t have the disassembly line to sort garbage from recycling. It may be that the recycling bins are overloaded, which often happens in our local transfer stations. Or it could be a vast conspiracy to take your money. You decide what’s most likely true.
Waste is a waste. I don’t like waste. It’s expensive. I’m sure some readers have their own ways of reducing the amount of waste that the municipalities have to deal with. Share them here.

Robert Wills, Thorne and Shawville


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