Concerned residents gathered outside of the provincial ministry of the environment today near St. Clair Ave. West and Avenue Rd. to pressure environmental minister John Gerretsen to halt construction of a new garbage dump. Scientists say the land it sits on contains one of the world’s purest water sources.
Dump Site 41, officially called County of Simcoe Landfill Site #41, is about 30 kilometres from Orillia and covers 70 hectares of land. City council passed a motion on June 26, 2007, to begin construction of the landfill, which would sit directly above the pristine Alliston Aquifer.
Some Simcoe residents, such as Roseanne Monague of the Eagle clan from the Beausoleil First Nation, are concerned that the landfill liner could break, leaking waste into the nearby Georgian Bay.
“If this water gets into Georgian Bay, it’s right around our territorial land,” Monague said. “It’ll affect our hunting, our fishing, the wildlife; everything that we’ve been given the right to protect.”
Monague said that the Beausoleil First Nation people, who have fishing and hunting rights in the area, were not consulted about the landfill construction. They have set up a campsite across from the landfill to protest over the last 108 days.
According to William Shotyk, professor at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, the water is exceptionally clean, with a fraction of the level of metals that are deemed acceptable in Ontario for drinking water.
Activists want the ministry of the environment and Jagger-Hims (now Genivar), the engineering firm hired to conduct tests on Dump Site 41, to release their findings and show verifiable tests results that prove the water will be not be contaminated, or to halt construction.
But Gerretsen stated that multiple studies have been done by the ministry of the environment showing there is no danger to the local waterways.
“I’ve met with our ministry officials on at least three or four if not more occasions over the last six to seven months, because when I first heard about these issues I was concerned as anyone else would be,” Gerretsen said.
“We want to make sure we do the right thing from a health, safety and environmental view point. And I’m convinced, and scientists are convinced, that what is happening there is appropriate,” he said.
However, opponents of the landfill, such as Peter Tabuns, Toronto-Danforth MPP and environmental critic for the provincial NDP, stood by the idea that the landfill could have a detrimental impact on the area.
“If you put garbage on top of this aquifer, the landfill is going to leak and the aquifer is going to be contaminated,” Tabuns said. “Anyone who doesn’t have an interest in pushing forward the landfill understands that.”
Simcoe County Council will meet on August 25 and 26 to vote on a moratorium on development of a Dump Site 41.