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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – March 27, 2024

The burning issue and air quality

Dear Editor,
So how would the Pontiac and all of the Ottawa Valley be affected by emissions from a new incinerator?
Air quality is influenced by various factors, including industrial activities, vehicular emissions, agricultural practices, and natural sources such as wildfires and pollen. Topography plays a major role in the Valley as air can easily be trapped by the Gatineau Hills which impede dispersal of pollutants, and low surface winds create a perfect setting for smog episodes. While efforts have been made to improve air quality in the region, challenges remain, particularly in areas where pollutants are concentrated, such as near major roadways or industrial facilities.
The increased numbers of large trucks coming and going from urban areas to the proposed incinerator in the Pontiac would significantly affect air quality. Vehicle exhaust releases pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter, which can degrade air quality, especially in urban areas with heavy traffic congestion, and could represent a major setback from all the efforts made so far to improve air quality.
Would these be the only trucks coming and going? In late January, Warden Toller presented the project to Renfrew County Council of Mayors. In her presentation she mentioned that emptying older dumps could also be possible. The need to maintain tonnage is a key issue and we would see the transportation of waste from older dump sites, which could mean even more trucks coming to the Pontiac incinerator.
While removing garbage from an old dump might seem like a proactive step to address waste accumulation, the implications of disturbing older waste piles should be considered. Older municipal dumps can produce a number of by-products that will vary depending on factors such as the types of waste deposited, the age of the dump, and environmental conditions.
Older dump sites are filled with what is called legacy waste. Established before modern waste management regulations were in place, older dumps may contain hazardous or toxic materials. Legacy waste is linked to the release of many gas products that contribute to poor air quality and can pose ongoing challenges for remediation and site cleanup efforts.
Methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, might or might not be captured when the stock pile is disturbed and is inevitably released into the air.
VOCs (volatile organic compounds), carbon dioxide and nitrogen, all present in legacy waste, are often released as waste piles are moved.
Air-borne pollutants such as hydrogen sulfite and ammonia, the gases responsible for the foul odour of decomposition of legacy waste with a high organic content, will affect the air quality of nearby communities.
Legacy waste is filled with hazardous substances such as heavy metals, asbestos, plastics of all kinds and other synthetic materials and chemicals. When burned in an incinerator, they can release toxic emissions from dioxins to furans, among others, into the air. Even at low levels of exposure, these substances can have serious health effects including cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, and immune system damage.
Finally, indirect air contamination from the ash residue from burning garbage.
Legacy waste can contain concentrated levels of heavy metals and other pollutants. Improper handling and disposal of the ash that is left after incineration can lead to contamination of soil and water sources. Improper cleaning of the trucks can send dust and ash into the air, posing risks to both human health and the environment.
Exposure to pollutants from regular incineration can have long-term health effects including respiratory diseases, neurological disorders, and even cancer. These effects may not be immediately apparent but can manifest over time with continued exposure.
The health risks associated with burning legacy waste from older dumps must also be considered in conjunction with other environmental stressors and pollution sources in the area. Cumulative exposure to multiple pollutants can amplify health risks and have cumulative effects on human health.
In 10, 20 and 40 years from now, what will be the consequences for your health, your children’s health and grand-children’s health?

Josey Bouchard, Spokesperson, Voix du Pontiac - Pontiac Voice

Do the right thing and win

Dear Editor,
I’ve used this meme before: Do the right thing, before it becomes law. Several commenters saw it as some sort of post-modern zen joke. They were right. But I have a plan to render it as a contest that will improve our communities immediately and longer term as well.
Some background: I’m told, and have no reason to doubt, that the landfill in Lachute, our present rented sacrifice zone, where we stash our trash in somebody else’s backyard, is projected to be full in about three years. If we can achieve the goal of zero waste production within that time, we’re off the hook and sitting pretty. We would be leaders in waste management, and probably receive some sort of gold star for good citizenship. But who needs a gold star? I have a better prize in mind. I offer $1,000 CDN to the first household who demonstrably achieves the goal of zero waste. I will enlist a committee of local objective observers, to make sure you’re not cheating, and dumping trash on someone else, to selfishly claim the $1,000 prize.
I’d advise you to start with organic materials that are currently nearly half the weight and most of the problem for municipal waste managers. It’s fairly easy to do if you’re in the country, because nature is on your side and will send special agents to help distribute the food you didn’t feel like eating.
How you will deal with plastics will be a real challenge. Remember that entering it into the recycling pickup does not count, because our imperfect system means recycled is actually waste. So one will have to scratch one’s head and wonder, try this and try that, in order to find a way not to add to the cumulative waste problem. You also cannot just put your trash in your neighbour’s driveway because that will still send it, at great expense, to Lachute.
So, the first household to achieve the goal will receive $1,000 or a Gretsch guitar, straight from my pocket to yours. This contest is strictly a citizen’s initiative, and is not sponsored by any government agency nor community organization, but any of those are welcome to join in and sweeten the pot with extra prize money or actual gold stars. Erase my cynicism, and win, win, win.

Robert Wills, Thorne and Shawville

Incinerator dreams

Dear Editor,
Wait. Did you say $450,000,000 to build the incinerator? 450 MILLION dollars? That’s equivalent to the entire 2024 MRC Pontiac budget for 45 years. That’s equivalent to a thousand new $450,000 houses. Housing crisis?
That’s almost half a billion bucks! Where would all that money come from? It has to be either private equity or government. If it’s investors, after the consultants, lawyers and planners have taken away their big slice, the financiers will expect to make a profit on the venture. That money is not staying here in the Pontiac. If it’s government money, that would come from more taxes on Canadians.
And what’s in it for us? Currently the MRC budgets less than $2 million a year for waste management. So, this project isn’t really about our garbage at all. Let’s keep it simple. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Leave me the birds and the bees.

Peter Ruppell, Thorne

Access denied

Dear Editor,
Requests for documents and information fall under section 9 of the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information, according to the Commission d’Acces a l’Information. By law, the public is entitled to any document held by a public body, no matter what physical format.
In that respect, typically an information request is responded to within 20 days. However, Pontiac Independent has found that when requesting information and/or documents from our elected offices that it may be an entirely different story.
While a few mayors will generally respond fairly quickly, others simply don’t respond at all, and one would tell you he doesn’t even care if it takes a year to respond!

Pontiac Independent has requested documents and information concerning various matters, including the EFW (energy from waste) file and, more specifically, public access to the initial business plan prepared by Deloitte, twice to date.
Friends of the Pontiac also requested this same document since January, as well as CHIP-FM’s recent request, and likely others.
But, in a desperate attempt to try to control the narrative, these requests have been denied.
Instead, the warden and the regional council of the MRC Pontiac have decided that the report is “very technical, and some people are going to read it and not get much out of it”, according to a statement made by Warden Toller in an interview with CHIP-FM.
They will present what information they see fit in five upcoming ‘town hall’ meetings, with the first date in l’Isle aux Allumette, just four days after the official announcement on the MRC Pontiac website. Conveniently, this is also three days shy of the proper notice required for public meetings.
Claiming “it’s the tax payers of the Pontiac that [they] really want to give the information to” but then refusing to release the information to those same ‘tax payers’, is indeed a contradiction in itself.
This refusal, and the sudden urge to hold public meetings without proper notice, raises questions surrounding the transparency and integrity of the elected office.

Pat Goyette, Fort Coulonge
Amy Taylor, Chapeau

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