Canada mayor visits CEO of Belgian mining giant Carmeuse in bid to stop massive waste dump outside his town
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Canada mayor visits CEO of Belgian mining giant Carmeuse in bid to stop massive waste dump outside his town

Mayor Ted Comiskey (on the right) together with William Tigert, Chief Administrative Officer of the town of Ingersoll in Canada

Civic leaders from a small Canadian town have appealed to a Belgian company to help them fight controversial plans for a landfill site on their doorstep. The site of a proposed landfill is just outside Ingersoll which has a population of just 13,000.

However, if approved, the site would become the 4th biggest landfill in Canada, depositing 17m tonnes of industrial and household waste over a 20 year period.

Most of the waste would come from the greater Toronto region which has a population of some 9m.

The landfill would be placed on part of a lime quarry, located 800 metres from the town and owned by mining firm Carmeuse, based at Louvain la Neuve and leased to Walker Environmental, a Canadian waste management company.

Local people are up in arms about the plans because they say it will pose a threat on environmental and social grounds.

Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey led a small delegation of officials from the town who flew to Belgium last week in a bid to rachet up pressure on Walker Environmental to ditch the plans.

They hope their message will resonate in Europe where they believe environmental protection practice is more stringent than in Canada.

Comiskey and two colleagues from Ingersoll met with the CEO and representatives of Carmeuse on Wednesday and left the meeting feeling “positive” about the prospects of persuading Canada’s Ministry of Environment to rule against the landfill.

Comiskey told The Brussels Times, “It was a positive meeting and I remain quietly confident we can succeed here.

“I do not think Carmeuse were fully aware of the potential impact this landfill could have on the local community but, after our meeting, I think they are now.”

Comiskey says it would be one of the largest landfills in the province – with all of its waste coming from the Greater Toronto Area.

“I don’t want to see the big cats of Toronto using Oxford County as their litter box,” he said.

The proposed 200-acre landfill has met significant opposition in the community with 30,000 residents signing a letter of protest, 6,000 of them since the start of the New Year alone.

Last spring, more than 250 residents held a rally to voice that opposition, citing concerns about waste leaking through the soil and into the community’s drinking water, as well as concerns about property values.

“Proposals like this are supposed to look at the need, and how it serves the greater community but we feel that Walker has failed to show us that there’s a benefit to the citizens of Ontario, and especially our local community.”

The proposed landfill site sits just a few metres away from a cemetery containing fallen soldiers who fought in WW2, including efforts to liberate Belgium.

“We know that we had Ingersoll people over in Belgium, in Holland, fighting for freedom. There is a certain irony in the fact that a Belgian company is now involved in this way,” Comiskey said.

“I think it is disrespectful to the memory of those who fought in Belgium in the war to now be considering putting a landfill site within a few metres of where they are buried.”

Environmental assessments on the site and other tests must be conducted before a final decision is taken by the Canadian environment ministry.

The delegation led by Comiskey hopes that Carmeuse will now “bring pressure to bear’ on Walker Environmental in a bid to get the plans scrapped.

Comiskey said, “We cannot allow this to happen, not least for the social impact which will be staggering, as well as the impact on plantlife and wildlife.

“People are genuinely afraid about these proposals and that is why I and my colleagues came all the way to Belgium to meet Carmeuse in a bid to make them aware of our concerns.

“They were very welcoming at our meeting and accepted what we were saying. But they also pointed out of course that they merely lease the site to Walker and are not in a position to reconsider that lease arrangement.

“They did say though that they have a civic responsibility and will bring all pressure to bear on Walker in an effort to ensure that, at the very least, our requirements are met when it comes to a full and thorough risk assessment.

“We have argued our case and made it clear that this plan could adversely affect the lives of future generations, not just ours.

“It is now up to the Belgian company to step up to the plate and, after our meeting with them, I am hopeful that they will look kindly on our case. Carmeuse cannot absolve themselves of all responsibility and we just want them to look more deeply into this.”

He added, ” At the moment it looks good for Walker but a final decision is some way off yet so the fight has only just begun.”

Martin Banks
The Brussels Times