Sunday, July 14, 2024
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – March 6, 2024

Incinerator health risks

Dear Editor,
As a public health advocate deeply concerned about the implications of environmental pollution on human well-being, Voix du Pontiac - Pontiac Voice cannot stay silent about the project to build an incinerator in our community. Despite claims of efficiency and waste management benefits, this type of towering structure poses a grave threat to public health, casting a dark shadow over the very communities they purportedly serve.
Incinerators, often touted as a solution to waste management challenges, are paradoxically contributing to a different kind of crisis: an assault on air quality and a detriment to public health. These industrial behemoths belch out a toxic concoction of pollutants, including heavy metals, dioxins, and particulate matter which settle in the air we breathe, infiltrating our lungs and permeating our bodies with harmful substances.
The purported benefits of incineration, such as reducing landfill waste and generating energy, pale in comparison to the profound health risks they pose. While it’s true that burning waste can reduce its volume, the environmental and health costs far outweigh any perceived advantages.
Moreover, the burden of incinerator pollution is disproportionately borne by small communities, often low-income and with many health issues, such as asthma, chronic pulmonary issues and the likes. These communities, already facing myriad social and economic challenges, are further marginalized by the toxic burden of nearby incinerators.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in waste management strategies. Instead of resorting to archaic and hazardous methods like incineration, we must prioritize sustainable alternatives that prioritize public health and environmental integrity. Comprehensive recycling programs, composting initiatives, and investment in renewable energy sources offer viable alternatives that not only reduce waste but also safeguard public health and promote environmental justice. The Quebec environment policies and laws are promoting such initiatives.
Community input and engagement should be prioritized in decision-making processes to ensure that the voices of those most affected by incinerator pollution are heard and respected, not just dismiss off hand concerned citizens as “a group of do-gooders who listen to non-credible experts.’’
As a society, Pontiac citizens cannot afford to sacrifice public health and environmental well-being at the altar of convenience and short-term gain. The true cost of incineration is measured not only in dollars and cents but in the health and vitality of our communities. It’s time to extinguish the flames of incineration and embrace sustainable solutions that prioritize the health and well-being of both current and future generations. The time for action is now, before the smokestack of an incinerator casts a permanent shadow over our collective future.

Josey Bouchard, Spokesperson, Voix du Pontiac - Pontiac Voice

No longer a “willing host”

Dear Editor,
In light of information on the long-term effects of garbage incineration, I don’t believe Pontiac residents can be considered “willing hosts” to a giant incinerator of imported garbage.
This is a good time to double up on efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle excess packaging, and sort — at source — plastic, wood, paper, metal and, most importantly, organic waste. If all that material is jammed together at the curb, it will be much more difficult to sort out later. More workers will need to be hired, and costs will go up. One thing specifically that I’ve witnessed is people putting 40 lbs of kitty litter into a 20 lb bag. It came apart when the worker tried to heave it into the bin. They’re not paid enough to do that, so have a heart.
A group of us visited a waste management facility near Eganville, and it was very well set up to process several streams of recycling, plus a large compost operation, which was run in such a way that the product was available for sale, and was all sold out the day we were there. This differs from the facility in operation at the Industrial Park [former Stone Smurfit site] which accepts septic and non-household waste, so it is not deemed safe for consumer use, and is only available to farmers. There are a few folks doing startup projects to produce garden-ready compost, but one will need to figure out for each household, just how to gather and process organic matter by neighbourhood. This is a case of do it yourself, before it’s mandated beyond reason.
My least favourite part of the Eganville facility was that the end game for inorganic
non-recyclables is a landfill. That space is nearing capacity and its only expansion option is to absorb the composting space. I just can’t get over my aversion to landfill as the final destination. Reducing the amount of garbage is the least-worst option, and it falls upon the people to enact that practice. If you’re not sorting, you’re part of the problem.

Robert Wills, Shawville and Thorne

Response to the warden

Dear Editor,
This is a response to Warden Toller’s letter to the editor, (Death, taxes and garbage, THE EQUITY, Feb. 28, 2024).
Warden Toller states that Friends of the Pontiac and Pontiac Independent “would like to stop all study of energy from waste.” She goes on to say that “we need as much information as possible to make the best-informed decision.”
I take issue with her statements. It is quite doubtful that these two citizen groups would oppose research studies of garbage incineration facilities. In fact, they have done extensive research on their own, drawing upon the plethora of fact-based evidence available from reputable organizations in Canada and around the world. From what I’ve seen, these groups oppose a garbage incinerator – not the research. On the other hand, Warden Toller seems to prefer to ignore that research and instead rely on the incinerator industry’s messaging, much of which cannot be supported by scientific evidence.
I agree with Warden Toller’s statement that much information is needed to make an informed decision. However, it is the source of the information that matters (e.g. environmental science, environmental organizations, peer-reviewed literature, community groups who have experience with garbage incinerators in their neighbourhoods, municipal budget documents, etc.).
In her January presentation in Renfrew County, Warden Toller discussed the initial business plan that was jointly produced by Deloitte (a consulting firm) and Ramboll (a corporation in the garbage incineration industry). She said that one of the four key findings is that “excellent and clean technologies are available”. This sounds just like a message from the incinerator industry and it completely contradicts the readily-available evidence that garbage incineration is anything but “excellent and clean”.
It was good to see our warden at the Mar. 2 public event in Campbell’s Bay organized by Citizens of the Pontiac. We heard the results of research done by very thoughtful and well-informed experts who know what they are talking about.
She would be wise to take their research and advice quite seriously. She would also be wise to learn more about the success of zero waste strategies as a viable alternative to burning garbage.

Jennifer Quaile, Councillor, Otter Lake

A better solution

Dear Editor,
Last Saturday I attended a community meeting hosted by Judy Spence and Citizens of the Pontiac. It is exciting and so important to have residents engaged and talking about a better solution for our waste. We need to make big strides forward as quickly as possible with recycling and composting. We need to educate and increase awareness to make this move forward easy and understandable for everyone. Hopefully, we will be able to have a regional approach so that the collection can be done for all municipalities.
The presentation at the meeting was recommending zero waste as the solution over energy from waste. We do need to create less waste and manage it better. I have often said that a Re-Store in the Pontiac for recyclable furniture, appliances, lighting and plumbing fixtures would be a great step forward and it might be done by a not-for-profit, a business or the MRC. This would eliminate many bulky pieces from landfill. Mattresses could also be broken down.
The number of 5,000 tons of waste to Lachute’s landfill is actually from 2019. Currently, the number is higher and growing (5,300 tons). The significant news (according to McGrimmon Cartage) is that the recycling captured in 2023 is at least 6,000 tons, compared to 1,146 tons in 2019.
At the end of the meeting, I asked a question: “After we recycle and compost to the maximum, we will still be left with 35-to-40 per cent of residual waste that will need a solution. If we use zero waste as our solution, which requires every resident’s participation, will we still need to send waste to landfill?”
Let’s keep this important discussion and advocacy going!

Jane Toller, Warden, MRC Pontiac

For Shame

Dear Editor,
When I first heard about Ms Toller she was espousing all about her personal connection to the lumber barons of Fort Colounge and how very proud she was to be from this area, our area, the Pontiac.
Fast forward to now. She is currently the head of the MRC, all the communities of the Pontiac, head of the farms, head of the forests and lakes, head of the small towns dotted across the area, our homes, our families, our heritage and our very well-being.
Funny how the only thing she thinks the Pontiac is good for, what her grand and illustrious legacy will be, is as a colossal garbage dump!
The incinerator will ruin this entire area and turn it into a toxic wasteland! So incredibly short-sighted.
Not only do we, in the Pontiac, not produce enough garbage for an incinerator to be a viable option, but Ms Toller in her inimitable wisdom, wants to have the laws changed so that the entire Ottawa capital region, plus Renfrew county, can use the incinerator as well. Wow! Just wow!
How very proud you must be, Ms Toller, of your heritage and your home to bring such a proposition to the table. You are setting the Pontiac up for bankruptcy and ensuring that coming generations will have no choice but to move far, far away form the toxic mess you are trying to create.
For shame, Jane! For shame!

Mary Dubeau, Litchfield

Public plenary

Dear Editor,
First, we would like to express our gratitude and commend Mayor Bill McCleary of Shawville for bringing our motion for a public plenary to the table of mayors.
For their part, we would also like to thank Shawville, Waltham, and Fort Coulonge mayors for responding to our emails; as well as Mansfield for responding to our plenary motion, even if it was in disagreement.
When mayors fail to respond to citizen inquiries, it demonstrates a lack of consideration for citizens, and a disregard of their needs and concerns, leading to a further decline in the trust that residents have in their elected officials.
On the other hand, engaging with and responding to citizens allows mayors to stay connected with the community, and to understand the needs, and priorities of residents. Following procedures to promptly address emails and information requests shows a commitment to transparency and integrity. It helps to build trust and credibility in local government, demonstrating that the mayor is accessible and responsive to the concerns of the public, ultimately leading to better governance and decision-making.
Allowing public access to plenary meetings would promote trust between the government and the community, fostering a sense of inclusivity and engagement in the decision-making process. Citizens would not only have the opportunity to observe decision-making processes, but to also understand the issues being discussed.
Ultimately, public access to our regional plenary meeting is essential for a functioning democracy and a well-informed citizenry. Therefore, we ask all mayors to promote democratic participation in our local governance, and to uphold the transparency and integrity of our elected offices by voting in favour of public access to Plenary meetings.

Pat Goyette, Fort Coulonge
Amy Taylor, Chapeau


Dear Editor,
Yesterday I attended, with two friends from PEP (Pontiac Environmental Protection), the NSDF (Near surface Disposal Facility) at Chalk River the last day of the Indigenous climate action organized by Chief Lance Haymond, Chief of the Kebaowek First Nation. It was advertised as the Stop the Chalk River Nuclear Megadump. The protest was held in front of the Westin Hotel by the Rideau Centre where the Canadian Nuclear Association Conference was being held. When we first arrived, we could not find the group, so I asked the receptionist where the conference was being held. She refused to tell me or give me any information about the group. Why the secrecy when the environment affects all of us?
When we located the group outdoors, I was impressed by the Indigenous groups that participated. Three of the groups, the Kebaowek First Nation, Wolf Lake First Nation and Kitigan Zibi (Maniwaki), all came from above the Chalk River facility on the Ottawa River. We asked why they were concerned about pollution from the Chalk River plant when they were above the plant. They explained that when the rain falls and the wind blows, the pollution goes everywhere.
The person that impressed me most was a young man, attending his last years of high school in Ottawa, who is from Nunavut. I only saw one politician, an NDP MP, who circulated around the group.
It was a very cold day, but the Indigenous protesters claimed the day before was much colder. It was a great experience sharing our concerns with such dedicated people who want to protect our environment.

Venetia Crawford, Shawville


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