These southwestern Ontarians are pushing back on a proposed landfill

Dresden C.A.R.E.D is a group of residents who have united in opposition to the revived and expanded former landfill site proposed for just outside of Dresden.  (Peter Duck/CBC - image credit)
Dresden C.A.R.E.D is a group of residents who have united in opposition to the revived and expanded former landfill site proposed for just outside of Dresden. (Peter Duck/CBC - image credit)

Residents of a small southwestern Ontario community are pushing back on the proposed development of a landfill and recycling facility near where they live.

The proposed site would sit just north of Dresden, a little more than one kilometre from the edge of town.

Before Dresden became part of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent in 1998, incinerator ash was deposited on the site. Because of that, the site needs no rezoning from the municipality, and approval is in the hands of the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Community members created Dresden C.A.R.E.D (Citizens Against Reckless Environmental Disposal) as a way to fight the possible landfill.

"When we first saw their proposal, our concern was that we are an agricultural community and that these sorts of projects have unintended chemical waste," said Stefan Premdas, a member of Dresden C.A.R.E.D.

"As we started looking at their proposal, we realized the species at risk and the endangered animals that live within our Carolinian forest would also be endangered."

The property is owned by York 1, a company based just outside Toronto. It has submitted two applications to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks for this issue, and wants to expand the site to cover a total of 25 hectares.

The company said in an email to CBC News that the purpose of the site is primarily to recycle construction materials.

Municipal authorities and residents are able to submit feedback on both applications, with one comment period closing on Saturday and the second in April.

Applications filed in January

The applications were filed at the end of January and the company held information sessions last month.

Ward 4 Chatham-Kent councillor Rhonda Jubenville said she's heard from constituents who aren't happy with how the sessions went.

"They didn't receive any answers," said Jubenville.

"I feel people left more frustrated. They walked away feeling even worse than they did when they entered."

According to York 1, as much as 80 per cent of the material would be recycled and sent back out for reuse.

If its application is successful, the landfill could receive 6,000 tonnes of solid waste every day, most of it composed of construction and demolition waste.

Residents concerned about living near possible full-blown landfill

Wendy Vercauteren, a member of Dresden C.A.R.E.D who lives one kilometre from the site, says she's concerned this landfill could set a precedent for others as the province races to build homes, generating both residential and construction waste.

"We all know that the status of the landfill capacities in the province is in dire straits," Vercauteren said.

"My fear is ... the government comes along and says, 'We gave you approvals for [a] landfill. We want you to switch from a regenerative recycling facility to a full-blown landfill, because we need a place.'

"Can you imagine living within one kilometre of a full-blown landfill, a whole community of almost 3,000 people?"

The region has no sitting MPP since former representative for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Monte McNaughton, resigned last fall. There has been no byelection called to find his replacement.

Company says site will manage construction, demolition waste

York 1 spokesperson Nicoleta Micle said in an email to CBC News that the company is in the early stages of the provincial process to amend the existing permits for the site, which it called a "regenerative recycling facility."

"Among numerous other studies, a species-at-risk study and a traffic control study are being completed," said Micle.

"This will be a specialized facility designed to manage construction and demolition waste materials efficiently and sustainably by extracting valuable resources for reuse, recycling, or conversion into energy."

Traffic safety a top issue for nearby municipality

Alan Broad is the mayor of another nearby municipality, Dawn-Euphemia, which comes close to bordering the landfill.

He says his municipality and Lambton County have feedback ready to be submitted on the proposed site. He's also been speaking to other area MPPs about the issue.

Broad says one of their main concerns is traffic and the impact on area roads.

"We live in a very large agricultural community," Broad said, referencing the projected number of trucks traveling to the site. "We have tractors, equipment running up and down the roads nine months of the year, and now you're going to throw an additional 700 trucks a day onto that, along with the school buses and everything else.

"There's no common sense of this, and a recycling facility should be built along the 400-series highways where they could handle the traffic that's going to be required."

Environmental defence concerned for species at risk

Tim Gray is the executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based advocacy group.

Gray, and Dresden C.A.R.E.D, note that a creek runs through the site, which feeds into the Sydenham River. That, in turn, is home to species at risk, including the spiny soft-shell turtle.

"Concern really was heightened when we realized the proposed location of this landfill," Grey said. "The Sydenham River is one of the most important rivers in Ontario."

Tim Gray is the executive director of Environmental Defence.
Tim Gray is the executive director of Environmental Defence.

Tim Grey is the executive director of Environmental Defence, an advocacy group in Toronto. (Peter Duck/CBC)

Gray said Environmental Defence would like to see an environmental assessment screening as part of the process.

Martha Fehr, another member of Dresden C.A.R.E.D, owns a business that's within a few kilometres of the site.

"We have such an amazing economy and town and spirit here that this is really putting a damper on people's spirits," she said.

"I think a lot of people are just hurt and confused and just need some direction, which is what we're hoping to give the community."

Fehr says she wants to "give [the community] their power back and give them their voice back because a lot of people have felt that they don't have a voice to speak on this."