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Lawsuit threatens Ottawa's Trail Road landfill expansion

Ottawa's main landfill the large Trail Road facility will be filled within three years unless the province sign...


Ottawa’s main landfill the large Trail Road facility will be filled within three years unless the province signs an agreement to see it expanded, says Anne-Marie Fowler, the city’s solid waste manager. Yet the signing of such an agreement is being delayed by a lawsuit in Napanee that has halted work on 12 Ontario landfills. The city may have to obtain an emergency extension for the Trail Road landfill if it can’t get permission for an expansion, according to Fowler.

The lawsuit, sometimes called the Sutcliffe decision, presents a challenge to "scoped" environmental assessments. These allow project proponents to not include all options in their evaluation, but instead focus on the most likely one. The Napanee lawsuit was brought against a private company that sought to expand a landfill in eastern Ontario using a scoped EA. That lawsuit is expected to go to the Supreme Court of Canada. Subsequent uncertainty about environmental assessment in Ontario has thrown numerous other projects into limbo, and some projects have simply been shelved until the process is clarified, since no one wants to spend millions of dollars seeking permission to build or expand a landfill when the approvals process is a moving target.

If an emergency extension becomes necessary but is not obtained, Ottawa has the option of sending its garbage to the Carp landfill or the Moose Creek landfill north of Cornwall. Fowlers doesn’t think the city will have to seek a more radical solution like export to the United States.

An city staff memo indicates that the life of the Trail Road facility would be extended an additional 10 to 40 years beyond 2008 if the environmental assessment is approved by the ministry.

In the meantime, to extend the life of the landfill beyond 2008, the city is considering more fee-based garbage services to encourage greater residential waste diversion. A 70 per-cent waste diversion rate could extend the life of the Trail Road facility by 40 years.


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