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Three municipal councils call for halt to incinerator project

Mayor Spence to replace warden as spokesperson on EFW file

by Charles Dickson
Mar. 18, 2024
The councils of the municipalities of Otter Lake, Thorne and Waltham passed resolutions at their monthly meetings last week calling for a halt to any further development of the project to build a garbage incinerator in the Pontiac.
The plan to build an energy-from-waste (EFW) incinerator was unveiled by Pontiac County warden Jane Toller through a pair of community town hall-styled meetings she convened in June of last year. At that point, the warden reported that all 18 of the county’s mayors had already endorsed the proposal. Her efforts to convince municipalities to pass supportive resolutions, which had already been underway for months, resulted in eight having done so by the time she went public with her plan.
Thorne and Waltham were among those that . . .

passed resolutions declaring their support for the incinerator project last year. But, in unanimous votes by their councils last week, both municipalities rescinded their previous motions of support.
Otter Lake was not among the early supporters of the project. In its July meeting last year, the municipal council rejected the supportive resolution put forward by the warden. Last week, the council passed a resolution that reaffirms its earlier opposition to the incinerator and states it will not support the development of another business plan for the project.
The warden has described a document recently provided by consulting firms Deloitte and Ramboll under a single-source contract of more than $100,000 as an “initial business plan,” suggesting that a second version of the plan will be required.
Though the municipality of Litchfield passed a resolution declaring its opposition to the incinerator last August, proponents of the project continue to assert that an industrial site in Litchfield, next to the Ottawa River, just west of Portage du Fort, will be the future location of the proposed facility.

The energy-from-waste proposal being advanced by the warden and most of the mayors would see 395,000 tons of garbage from urban areas throughout the Ottawa Valley transported by some 40 trucks per day to feed the incinerator. According to the warden, the project would save $1.7 million currently spent on transporting Pontiac’s 5,000 tons of garbage to a landfill in Lachute, as well as create 50 permanent jobs and produce electricity that could be sold, among other benefits.
In response to the EFW project, local citizens’ groups formed over recent months have begun to raise public awareness of what they see as significant environmental and health hazards presented by the envisioned incinerator. Their concerns range from toxic substances in air-borne emissions and the 100,000 tons of ash they say the facility will produce, to the production of carbon dioxide from the trucking and burning of the garbage, among others.
Meanwhile, at a meeting of Pontiac County mayors last week, it was proposed that Corey Spence, mayor of Allumette Island, replace the warden as the spokesperson for the incinerator project. This follows criticism by mayors of the warden’s handling of the file. Among their concerns has been her presentation to Renfrew County mayors of what she called “key findings” of the recently-completed initial business plan, prior to Pontiac County mayors seeing the document, much less approving it for publication. An email the warden is reported to have sent to the mayors advising them not to share their views on the incinerator with the public has also rankled a number of mayors.