Haunted by garbage
It was the legendary Yogi Berra who once said “It’s like deja-vu all over again”. This best describes the current attempt by the MRC Pontiac to build a mega garbage incinerator.
Those of us who were around in the 1980’s, especially the residents of Bristol, will remember when a promoter from Toronto along with the owner of the Hilton Mine at that time, proposed to convert the open pit mine into a mega garbage dump. Of course, the promoters green-washed the garbage dump as a “state of the art sanitary landfill site”, similar to how a garbage incinerator is now re-branded as a “waste-to-energy facility”.
According to the promoters, the dump would solve our garbage issues, have little to no environmental impact, and bring great economic development and jobs to the Pontiac. Those who opposed the dump were called “radical beyond reason”.
When residents of Norway Bay and cottagers expressed their concern, the promoters and their supporters dismissed them as being “outsiders” as though their opinions did not count. The promoters went so far as to produce a glossy promotional report masked as an environmental impact assessment and economic plan. Nevertheless, the open pit mine did not end up being converted to a mega garbage dump. How did that come about?
With scientific evidence showing the true potential environmental and economic impacts of the project, along with strong opposition from citizens and Bristol’s mayor and council, the promoters packed up and left town. So, does all of this sound familiar to what we are experiencing now?
Sadly, the residents of Litchfield are facing a similar struggle. This time, the MRC is imposing a proposed mega garbage incinerator on them. Litchfield Mayor Colleen Lariviere summed up the situation so well with the statement: “If we have 5,000 tons of garbage in the Pontiac and we get rid of 40 per cent of that through composting, it doesn’t leave us a whole lot of garbage to deal with. Why don’t we look at that avenue?”
Although we may believe that we live far enough away from the proposed garbage incinerator and will not be affected, it’s important to remember that pollution knows no boundaries.
I encourage you to get involved and sign the petition (available by emailing email@example.com). Maybe next time, you’ll be facing a similar situation as the residents of Litchfield.
Remo Pasteris, Bristol
What to do with the waste?
In the current discussion of a possible waste incinerator, there are some concerns which can be addressed, and perhaps make people feel more at ease about the future.
We have a situation of excessive waste material; it belongs to us, the citizens who buy products made of plastic, wrapped in plastic. The regional government is mandated to deal with this situation. We’ve been shipping it wholesale to Lachute, where it becomes part of a mountain of garbage. It’s obvious that this method is expensive, both monetarily and environmentally. The environmental concern is mostly removed from us, in that it’s Lachute’s backyard, and I hope their citizens have been adequately compensated for that blight on their landscape. They’ll own that pile for the rest of their lives. That facility is not going to be available to us much longer, as the available land to fill is nearly reached. I have campaigned two times against a large landfill operation being instituted in the Pontiac. So the search is on, to find and present a better alternative to landfilling.
All the municipal and regional governments are well aware that there are potential dangers in any form of waste management. Trucks are going to haul it, as they do haul logs to Thurso or Maniwaki, as they haul food and other consumables into the stores in our region. The less shipping, the less pollution. Incineration or landfill each have potential for mismanagement and unique forms of pollution.
There remains a problem of residual garbage to be dealt with, and inaction is not an option. We have to have a plan, and presently, controlled, high-temperature incineration seems like the least-harmful way. That fact that electricity can be generated is a small payback, but it’s better than nothing back. Compromised though it may be, it is a way of dealing with the waste that cannot be easily recycled. The current recycling efforts are at a monetary loss; even the metals don’t pay very much, and that’s the easiest stream to deal with. Waste management at a profit is the realm of the Sopranos. For municipalities, it’s a loss, just as maintaining roads and fire fighter services are expensive but necessary aspects of modern municipal government.
Yes, consumers can reduce the amount of waste they produce, and we can all start by separating out the organic kitchen leftovers, kitty litter, etc. These should not be in the stream of waste going to landfill nor to an incinerator; organics should be considered as a resource, to be composted and re-used as locally as possible, since the transport of wet, often smelly organic waste is nearly half the present cost of shipping garbage, and much of the landfill pollution problem. Municipalities are undertaking ways to collect organics, and there is a facility in Litchfield prepared to accept and compost it, then sell it to farmers. The gathering of it is another matter, for rural areas. That’s where citizen involvement is crucial, and small local enterprises can become involved, hopefully at a profit.
If citizens join in and take ownership of the garbage they make, perhaps we can starve out the whole waste management industry, and have no fear of air or water pollution from waste being mismanaged. If there’s some other method of dealing with it that the councils have not considered, feel free to suggest it, because nobody is happy with having to waste money on waste material. Pointing out potential problems is not quite the same as presenting a solution.
Robert Wills, Thorne and Shawville
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