Peer review panel appointed to watch guard Walker environmental assessment
The site for a proposed landfill in the Beachville area.
An expert panel has been appointed to delve into the thorny issue of Walker Environmental Group’s proposal to build a large and controversial landfill site in a mined Beachville quarry.
Led by Chris Haussmann of Haussman Consulting Inc., the panel, paid for by Walker, is comprised of professional advisors and consultants appointed by Oxford municipalities.
“The peer review team is a technical team, that will conduct a technical review of the environmental assessment study that Walker is required to conduct, “ Haussmann said Thursday. “What is important to understand is our focus is to make sure what Walker does is technically accurate and complete.”
The assessment, which will likely take several years to complete and review, must receive the province’s approval before the landfill can move forward.
Oxford County’s acting warden Margaret Lupton said the initiative will be an opportunity for the information to be examined by a field of experts.
“It’s up to Walker to answer all the questions being raised,” she said. “The peer review people have the scientific knowledge and will understand if there are safeguards that will actually do the job. They will be able to explain this to us.”
Last March, Walker Environmental Group first proposed putting about 850,000 tonnes of waste a year into the site, sparking plans for what could become Canada’s fourth largest landfill.
The proposal was opposed by local residents who quickly organized themselves into a grassroots group known as Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL).
The group has actively opposed the project that they believe will negatively affect their well water and the quality of life of those living near the proposed dump.
On Thursday OPAL said they were “pleased” to learn a peer review team had been appointed because they believe the responsibility “to protect the health of community members, the environment and economy” rests with the team and our municipalities.
“The review of Walker’s work plans and studies is a very serious undertaking, and there is much work to be done in the coming months,” said OPAL chair Steve McSwiggan in an email. “We hope that although paid for by Walker, the peer review team will consider the very real and potentially devastating effects of having a landfill of this magnitude in proximity to thousands of citizens.” The team includes experts in municipal finance, environmental assessments, land use, air quality and emissions, noise and vibration, landfill design, geotechnical, surface and ground water, legal issues, eco systems, traffic and agricultural impacts and the public consultation process.
It is the result of the affected municipalities entering into an agreement with Walker last November.
OPAL voiced concerned that that the municipalities had signed “a strict” memorandum of understanding agreement with Walker, operating as Niagara Waste Systems Ltd.
“This agreement gives Walker Industries a chance to review and comment on all reports completed by the peer review team before those results are made public and sent to the Ministry of Environment,” McSwiggan said.
OPAL, he said, will be conducting their own review — aided by geo-scientist Wilf Ruland, —that “will have no ties to the proponent.”
Haussmann and other members of the team will report to a joint municipal coordinating committee of mayors and CAOs from each affected municipality that includes Ingersoll, Zorra Township, South-West Oxford and the County of Oxford.
The proposed site on property owned by Carmeuse Lime is located in Zorra Township but borders the Town of Ingersoll and South-West Oxford.
In a release issued the same day as the new peer review team was announced, Walker Environmental Group (WEG) pledged its support for what they are calling “an independent and transparent peer review process” for the proposed site.
“The goal of the environmental assessment is to understand the potential effects our proposal on public health and safety, the environment and the community,” said Joe Lyng, manager of strategic growth in a media release. “We will develop the southwestern landfill proposal only if it can be done safely and in a way that protects the environment. Input from the community and peer reviewers is welcome.”
Discipline area Peer Review Team lead
Peer Review Team Manager F. Chris Haussmann, Haussmann Consulting Inc.
Economic and municipal finance Cameron N. Watson and Barbara L. O’Connor, Watson & Associates Economists Ltd.
Environmental Assessment process David Walmsley, Morrison Hershfield Ltd.
Public consultation process F. Chris Haussmann, Haussmann Consulting Inc.
Legal Peter Pickfield, Garrod Pickfield LLP
Social impacts David R. Hardy and Andrzej Schreyer, Hardy Stevenson and Associates
Land use planning and site plan approval Mark L. Dorfman, Mark L. Dorfman Planner Inc.
Visual impacts Mark Schollen, Schollen & Company Inc.
Air quality and air emissions Antoon (Tony) van der Vooren, AMEC
Noise and vibration John Emerson Coulter, J.E. Coulter Associates Limited
Landfill design, geotechnical, surface water, landfill gas and gas utilization Wayne Cooley, CH2MHILL Canada Limited
Groundwater impact William Blackport, Blackport & Associates
Ecosystems, aquatic and terrestrial Brent Tegler and Mirek Sharp, North-South Environmental Inc., and Brian Fraser, EcoMetrix Incorporated
Traffic impacts John Hemingway, Hatch Mott MacDonald
Agriculture impacts David B. Hodgson, DBH Soil Services Inc.