Russell waste facility plan 'Damocles sword,' residents say

Sat Feb 26, 12:19 AM
By David Gonczol - Ottawa Citizen

The company behind the project to build a waste recovery and landfill facility near Russell was told Thursday night that its lengthy environmental study process had become "a Damocles sword hanging over this community."

In a packed meeting hall in Embrun, Mayor Jean Paul St. Pierre and others on the municipality's Environmental Advisory Committee showed their frustration with what they said was a lack of information from Taggart Miller Environmental Services and the plans for environmental assessment that will likely drag on past 2012.

Plans for the Capital Region Recovery Center were announced days after last fall's municipal election. Critics say the company has said little about its plans since an open house announcing the project late last year.

The company, a consortium driven largely by Ottawa's Taggart Construction, hopes to take 250,000 tonnes of mostly Ottawa-generated commercial, construction and demolition waste that is now shipped for recycling and landfill in New York State annually. Opponents say the project will draw more than 100 garbage trucks a day to its site north of Russell, which is surrounded by farms.

"We want this information on this table as quickly as possible," St. Pierre said.

"We don't want you to use the municipality or this committee to say we need to slow down the process. We are hungry for information. We need information to start making decisions and we don't have anything on the table. The sooner you can get the terms of reference (for an environmental assessment), the better we are going to be," the mayor added to applause from the audience.

Committee member Anne Whyte told project engineer Paul Smolkin that many in the community wanted the issue dealt with quicker. She told him that the prospect of a large waste facility was like "a Damocles sword hanging over this community."

"That's the process," Smolkin responded.

Smolkin, a consultant who will manage the environmental assessment process for the consortium, said during his remarks that he hoped to submit terms of reference for an environmental assessment to the Ministry of Environment by this fall, followed by environmental studies. The environmental assessment would not be completed until "2012 or later."

The Dump the Dump Now community group has launched a campaign to stop the project that includes signs and the use of red lights on homes as a sign of solidarity, with lawn signs the next step.

Every public meeting held on the issue has been standing room only.

"It's very difficult to take a stance once way or the other because if (the municipality goes) against this particular project, guaranteed that the proponents are going to take this information and they are going to use this, they may use this down the road to defend their whole situation," St Pierre said.