Burying asbestos: Support for Litchfield landfill project
The MRC Pontiac and Litchfield council recently resolved to send letters of support for the Pontiac Sorting Centre’s proposed “technical landfill” project to the Minister of the Environment, Québec. The project has been in the works since May 2014 when the business first submitted an application to the Ministry for a certificate of authorization.
There have been several exchanges between the Ministry and the business since May 2014 in order to clarify certain elements of the project; the application is still being analyzed. “The role of the Ministry is to ensure the [proposed] project complies with all applicable environmental regulations,” said Sophie Gauthier, Ministry spokesperson.
The landfill would be created across the road from the Sorting Centre in the Industrial Park. The property would be divided into 18-20 segments where asbestos and construction waste not suitable for re-use or recycling would be buried in holes. According to Gerry Philippe, Sorting Centre Director of Operations, each hole would be protected with a double liner system to prevent leaching. He estimates the landfill will last 15-20 years. Daily monitoring and frequent reports to the Ministry are required.
In October last year, the Sorting Centre was fined over $40,000 by the Ministry for four non-compliance issues stemming from 2013 and 2015; asphalt shingles stored outdoors, non-waterproofed sorting surfaces, wood and metal stored outside the specified asphalted surfaces, and not taking appropriate measures to ensure materials were stored, processed and disposed of in authorized areas.
According to Gauthier, the business has received 10 notices of non-conformity since 2013. The most recent inspection in October 2018 found the amount of materials stored outside of authorized areas had increased (now estimated at more than 650 tons) and concrete slabs still need to be installed.
“Some work has been done. We’re still not perfect, but we’re working on it,” said Philippe.
Better luck next time?
Litchfield council resolved to send the letter of support at their council meeting on February 6 after mayor Colleen Lariviere met with Philippe. “The fact that the Sorting Centre has made the application and is taking the necessary steps to become a certified facility in that area of operations indicates their cooperation... In order for the entrepreneur to continue operations in accordance with regulations, the approval of the project is crucial,” said Lariviere.
“Council supports this facility (and all others) taking steps to conform with laws, enhance operations and services, and to maintain the employment of many Pontiac residents ... “We are confident the Ministry will monitor the operations and ensure conformity to regulations,” she added.
Warden Jane Toller admitted the organization “has had challenges” but said the MRC is supportive of giving them the opportunity to expand. “They need a way to get rid of their mountain of debris,” she said, noting a public consultation process will be part of the approval process. There are no MRC bylaws or other restrictions preventing the approval, she added.
Philippe claims the authorization, which he labelled a “cornerstone” of the Sorting Centre, will create “an entirely different ball game” for the business. In addition to being able to dispose of the “mountain” of debris on site, the additional revenue generated from the landfill will fund the concrete slabs and any other work the Ministry demands. “We need the revenue from the landfill, because you have to make money in order to spend it,” he said.
The Sorting Centre currently employs about 25 people, but Philippe estimates this will double if the landfill is approved. He said further expansion is possible in the future to accept household waste.
Philippe expects a response regarding the application in the near future.