March 17, 2009

Application for Investigation

The Application for Investigation was submitted to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario on October 27, 2008 and accepted for investigation by the Ministry of Environment in early January 2009. A timeline of the process (and the outcome) is below:

October 27, 2008 - Application for Investigation was submitted to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. The Application is available online at

October 30 - Application was referred to Ministry of Environment for consideration.

November 3 - Letter from Ministry of Environment acknowledging receipt of Application. Staff have until January to issue a response - whether they refuse to conduct an investigation.

January 2009 - The Ministry of Environment has decided to investigate the Harmony landfill! This is a promising step forward, because it means provincial attention will be focused on the 'crimes' on this site and potentially hold someone accountable.

March 2009 - The investigation by the Ministry of Environment should now be complete. A response is due in early April, describing their findings.

April 2009 - A letter was received from the MOE detaining their findings. The results of the EBR investigation by MOE staff "do not support the allegation that the onsite leachate seepage is a violation of Sections 6 and 14 of the Environmental Protection Act or that the owner failed to notify the ministry in violation of Section 15 of the Act". Details from the decision can be found online at

A summary from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario's website:
Review of Application I2008011: Alleged Contraventions of the Environmental Protection Act at the Oshawa Landfill/Application for Investigation of Rossland Acres Inc. (Investigation Undertaken by Ministry of the Environment)

Background/Summary of Issues
On October 27, 2008, the applicants requested that the Ministry of Environment (MOE) investigate a possible leachate leakage at the former Industrial Disposal (Oshawa) Limited landfill site, now owned by Rossland Acres Inc. They provided evidence in the form of photographs, showing that over the spring and summer of 2008 an orange-coloured liquid was seeping from the ground on the south-facing side of the site, which has been closed since 1985. They also provided test results for three sets of soil and water samples taken from the affected site over this period of time. The tests revealed levels of several contaminants above both national and provincial guidelines for both soil and water. The applicants argued that the discharges had impaired the quality of the natural environment and might have also rendered the property, plants and animals unfit for human use. They also pointed out that the site is in close proximity to a residential development and that many people walk their dogs in the area. The applicants alleged that the owner of the site was in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) in two ways: first, by allowing the discharge of a substance into the environment that may be causing an adverse effect; and secondly, by failing to report this discharge to the MOE.

Ministry Response
After reviewing the application, the ministry decided on January 3, 2009, to investigate. The investigation included further testing of samples collected from the site by the owner, testing of samples taken from Harmony Creek (which flows just south of the site) by the ministry, and meetings with the owner on the site to examine the leachate discharges and discuss remediation measures. The ministry concluded that their investigation did not indicate that the discharge was causing or could cause an adverse effect and that the owner was not in contravention of the EPA, either for allowing the discharge or for failing to report it to the MOE. The ministry also stated that although no offence had been committed, it recognizes the significant concern regarding this issue and will therefore carry out the following activities: a comprehensive examination of the company’s compliance with the requirements of their provisional Certificate of Approval (C of A); surface and groundwater sampling at the site and surface sampling of Harmony Creek; and continued communication with the company to ensure that the latter takes action with respect to mitigating any risks associated with the seepage, repairing the seepage, and addressing its source.

ECO Comment
MOE has promised to report back to the applicants in three months (July, 2009) with the results of these further investigations and activities. The ECO will be monitoring this case and will review the outcome of this application for our 2009-2010 reporting year.

The Environmental Commissioner's 2009-2010 Annual Report has a large section on concerns over landfills in the province, "Aging Landfills: Ontario’s Forgotten Polluters" (page 126-131)

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