On October 13 a slow-burning fire caused smoke to envelope a waste transfer site in an area near the old Keele Valley landfill on the outskirts of Toronto, spreading clouds of smoke over the City of Vaughan. The fire started around 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday and continued into the following day. Fumes floated over the town of Maple and Vaughan, where residents were advised to shelter in place (e.g., stay inside with doors and windows closed).
The fire posed a special problem for firefighters as it formed beneath a 30-metre-high pile of construction materials.
310 Waste Ltd. — the waste-management company that operates the site — is already known to the provinces environment ministry, and faces six charges under the provincial Environmental Protection Act.
Government officials served the company’s directors with a notice yesterday that states that no further waste is allowed onsite. The ministry posted two guards around the clock at the gates of the site to prevent further waste gathering.
The site is just north of Keele Street and Major Mackenzie Drive, and has been a source of conflict with the government and local residents for some time. An inspection in June, 2003 led to charges as the company was only licensed to hold 1,500 tonnes of waste indoors, yet had about 13,000 tonnes of waste (it was storing and processing most of it outdoors). The allegations have not been proved in court. The company faces fines of up to $250,000 on each count if found guilty.
Robert Sansone, director of 310 Waste Ltd., said the decision to clamp down on his operation was fair, and that it will take about three weeks to comply with the conditions of the license. He added that the company was unable to comply with its license conditions because there are too few drivers willing to truck waste to the United States.
Vaughan Mayor Michael Di Biase said, "I blame the Minister of the Environment. We have repeatedly asked that their certificate of approval be pulled and they haven’t done that.
"A year later and they’re still waiting for the courts. Pull the license and get it over with."
A ministry spokesperson said the ministry was following the legal process but that the fire had prompted further action. The deputy fire chief for Vaughan said the company has been "on our radar" for some time.