| Sep 18, 2008

Sept 18/08 - Portland Residents Critical of Waste Plan

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Feature Article - September 18, 2008 Portland Residents Critical of Waste Management PlanBy Jeff Green

Public Works Manager Mark Segsworth face a barrage of questions and comments in Verona last week

Guy Laporte, the engineer from the firm Totten Sims Hubicki, who has been working with the South Frontenac Township Sustainability Committee, and township Public Works Manager Mark Segsworth, were faced with a series of provocative, often angry questions at a public meeting in Verona last week.

The meeting was one of four that took place to present a draft plan to amalgamate and overhaul the township’s waste management system. Meetings took place in each district of the township, and since the districts all have their own systems in place, and would be impacted differently by the changes, the tones of the meetings varied considerably.

The Verona meeting was the largest and most contentious of them all.

One of the reasons for this response is that Portland is the home of the largest capacity dump in South Frontenac, with 39 years of projected dumping available if it is limited to the use of Portland residents and current dumping practices are maintained.

The draft waste management plan envisions increased recycling, and other practices aimed at diverting more waste and reducing the amount of garbage each South Frontenac resident sends to landfill by at least 25% over the next few years.

If those reductions are achieved, with the Portland dump being integrated into a township-wide system, the township is projected to run out of dumping capacity in 32 years. If Portland residents increased the amount of waste they divert by 25%, and continued to have exclusive use of their own dump, they would have “50 or 60 years of capacity” said Guy Laporte.

Another reason for the controversy is that Bill Robinson, a long-serving Portland councilor and the current deputy mayor of the township, actively promoted the meeting as an opportunity to try to save the Portland dump.

Guy Laporte explained the ins and outs of the draft plan, which, among other things, would call for a true user-pay system, with $2 bag tags being available at local stores, and current waste fees ($125 per household in Loughborough and Portland and $25 in Bedford) being eliminated. It would also mean an end to the practice of shipping waste out of Storrington District to a commercial landfill site at a cost of $85 per tonne plus shipping. The draft plan envisions a single waste stream for the entire township, with curbside pickup of garbage and recycling on all township roads and the orderly filling up of all township dump sites.

“What we have been trying to do is establish a 20-year plan for waste management throughout the township of South Frontenac,” said Mark Segsworth. “We have come up with a draft plan but nothing is set in stone, and this is a great turnout to talk about it.”

Deputy Mayor Bill Robinson addressed the audience after Guy Laporte was finished. “You've made my heart just race. I'm so thrilled to see you all. These people have created a crisis here, when there never needed to be one,” he said.

What followed was 90 minutes of questions and statements, most of them running counter to the idea of opening up the Portland dump to waste from outside the district.

“There are a lot of people here who want to keep what they have,” said one individual, “and you people are trying to take it away from them.”

“It's very clear that you've already made up your minds and are going to shove this down our throats,” said another.

Another question arose concerning the garbage that is generated in Storrington district. The report concluded that it would be more efficient, and more cost effective, to keep that garbage within the township.

“The principle is that we should take care of our own garbage,” said Mark Segsworth.”

“When you look at all the costs, you see that it makes more sense to dump it at home,” said Guy Laporte.

This did not go well with many of the people in the hall.

“We have worked to develop our dump and keep it up,” said one person, “and in Storrington they sold off their dump, and then we are supposed to take their garbage for free? How are you going to compensate the people of Portland?”

“We have identified that compensation should be considered,” said Segsworth.

The Township Sustainability Committee, which produced the draft plan, is made up of four councilors and four volunteers, with each district having at least a councilor and in most cases another member of the public on the committee.

Councilor David Hahn from Bedford, who is one of the committee members, spoke out in favour of the plan and the process through which it was developed. He said the plan is an attempt to be fair to everyone, “and to ensure that garbage is dealt with tomorrow and in 20 years while encouraging recycling, setting up a hazardous waste centre, doing everything we can do to have a good, solid system that works for everyone.”

Councilor Jim Hicks from Portland pointed out that “neither myself, nor Pam Redden [the non-council rep. from Portland] nor Councilor John Filion from Storrington voted for this plan. We opposed it.”

Most members of South Frontenac Council were in attendance at the meeting, including Mayor Davison, but they kept quiet, leaving Public Works Manager Segsworth to represent the township.

The public meetings in the other districts were neither as contentious nor as crowded as the Verona meeting, but common concerns were raised, including a resistance to the user-pay bag tag system that is being proposed.

All of the commentary from the public meetings, as well as written submissions, are being compiled and a report is being presented to the sustainability committee this week.

The matter will eventually come before the entire Council.

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