June 9, 2011

Article in Oshawa This Week - June 9

Oshawa landfill poses no health risk: consultant

New report recommends beefed up monitoring for north Oshawa site

By Jillian Follert
Oshawa This Week
June 9, 2011

OSHAWA -- A new report says a controversial landfill in north Oshawa does not pose a public health threat.

The site has been a source of worry for neighbouring residents and local environmentalists after it started leaking a smelly, rust-coloured liquid in 2008.

Last year council hired a consulting firm to investigate the decommissioned landfill -- located near Harmony Road North and Grandview Street -- and offer an opinion on whether it poses a risk.

"We associate unpleasant visual and smells with something that is likely to be harmful," said Tom Mclelwain, who spoke to council members on behalf of Golder Associates. "But in reality there is no demonstrated adverse effect."

The reddish liquid that periodically stains the ground and creates a film on top of puddles and creek water is iron staining, he said.

Council's development services committee was brought up to speed on the status of the landfill at a special meeting Tuesday morning.

The landfill, bounded by Harmony Valley Park on one side and a large residential subdivision on the other, was formerly owned by Industrial Disposal Oshawa Limited and operated from 1957 to 1980, when it was sealed.

When it was up and running, the 35-acre site accepted solid commercial and industrial waste, primarily from General Motors.

Mr. Mclelwain told council members there is "no documented record" of what went into the landfill over the years, but evidence suggests much of it was paper and other "normal" municipal type waste.

However, he also said potentially dangerous materials -- such as paints and solvents -- may have been dumped in 45-gallon drums.

Depending on when they were disposed of, the consultant said those drums may already have rusted and leaked their contents, or could potentially do so down the road.

"I'm really concerned, people are walking in that area, they're walking their dogs and their dogs are maybe drinking out of the creek," said Councillor Doug Sanders. "We don't know what's in there. It could be a cesspool and we don't know."

Ministry of the Environment officials have tested ground and surface water samples and have done visual inspections of the site and reported no troubling results.

Golder Associates also did its own testing and came up with the same findings.

"It's perfectly consistent with the type of leachate quality that you see at other landfill sites," Mr. Mclelwain said.

Councillor John Aker, who chairs the development services committee, said he is satisfied there is no threat.

"We have to depend on these expert organizations and what they have said," he noted. "It's in the hands of the Ministry of the Environment if they want to do anything more."

After the landfill was closed in the 1980s, the MOE issued a certificate of approval but did not require the owner to do any future monitoring or maintenance.

In contrast, any landfill closed today would have ongoing monitoring, inspections, site security and annual reports.

Because of the concerns raised over the site, Mr. Mclelwain said ministry officials now visit at least once a year and have convinced the owner to do some patching and repairs to prevent leachate from seeping out.

But the consultants say more should be done and list a series of recommendations in the new report.

They include installing a series of groundwater monitoring wells, using backhoe excavation to expose and assess the cover protecting the waste to determine whether it is sustainable and doing an elevation survey to create a topographic map of the site.

Golder Associates also recommends annual monitoring program and report and says the MOE should do an engineering evaluation of the existing leachate collection system.

The committee voted to send a copy of the consultant's report to the MOE and ask officials there to provide comment on the recommendations and clarify whether further monitoring and maintenance will be ordered.

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