'Ingersoll isn't laying down on this one'
Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey, Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley, Ingersoll Deputy Mayor Fred Freeman and Ingersoll Councillor Gord Lesser gather for a photo at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association/Ontario Good Roads Association conference in late February. Comiskey met with Bradley during the conference to discuss Walker Environmental Group's proposed landfill in Zorra. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Why risk it?
That's the key thought Ingersoll Mayor Ted Comiskey has when it comes to Walker Environmental Group's Zorra landfill proposal and the theme of a recent discussion he had with Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley.
Comiskey raised his concerns about the proposed landfill during a 45-minute meeting with Bradley at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association/Ontario Good Roads Association conference in late February.
During the sit down, he asked the minister to “take a very serious look” at Walker's proposal and, if he can, put a stop to it before it goes any farther.
“He can't promise anything, we know that,” said Comiskey who got more than the 15-minutes he expected with the minister after he was bumped to the end of Bradley's schedule. “We know there is a procedure.”
Bradley did tell him, “'Don't be afraid of being heard,'” Comiskey said.
Being heard is exactly what Comiskey is planning on.
“I love Ingersoll and I don't want this landfill next to my town,” he said. “We have to make sure the ministry (of environment) is aware of the feeling of the Town of Ingersoll (toward the landfill).We have to make sure the ministry is aware of the effects that could potentially happen...have already started (to happen). This is not something 13,000 people want to see on their doorstep.”
Social impact is one of the effects of the landfill and Comiskey said it's something the town is already experiencing.
Some people looking to move to the area are crossing Ingersoll off their list out of concern that they could wind up living near a landfill, he said.
The landfill proposal is also giving pause to businesses considering setting up shop in Ingersoll, said Comiskey.
“Their first and primary question is, 'What's the status of the landfill?'”
If approved, Walker's plans would create the second largest landfill in Canada, Comiskey said, and it would be located close to Oxford's most populated area.
“Even in the olden days, you wouldn't build your outhouse underneath your neighbour's kitchen window,” he said.
The landfill would have a lifespan of 20 years, but Comiskey said he believes there is potential for expansion to continue well beyond that.
“Why would it (only) be 20 years? I believe likely there is 100 years of limestone to draw from in this area. Is that what we've got to look forward to – 100 years of GTA waste coming to this area?”
Comiskey said, due to the its proposed location, if the landfill is going to affect anyone, it's going to affect Ingersoll.
“I believe the people of Ingersoll should have a say. We've got to stand up.”
He is encouraging residents to make sure they're heard, including supporting the efforts of Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL).
Ingersoll has joined the townships of Zorra and South West Oxford and the county in a peer management group, which has hired experts to review studies conducted in conjunction with Walker's application.
“We have brought on board the best team we can possibly assemble,” said Comiskey.
There is no illusion about what the group is up against, he said.
“It's a hard battle to fight,” Comiskey said. “We have to look at it and make sure the peer management group covers every possible base it can to ensure all the environmental assessments needed are completed.”
While Walker covers the cost of the peer review, Comiskey said it's important for people to understand that Walker only deposits funds into an account and the experts have been hired independently by and work for the peer management group.
“We draw upon those funds to pay our peer review people that we have chosen,” he said.
So far, Ingersoll has dedicated $100,000 to cover legal fees associated with the landfill proposal, Comiskey said at some point the town will be looking to recoup some of that money.
“In no way should there be any burden placed on the Town of Ingersoll. It's not Ingersoll's responsibility and that will be a fight,” he said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne's 'willing host' statement in her throne speech recognized the need for community support and direction when it comes to proposals like the landfill, Comiskey said.
“I think we have to impress upon the ministry there's a community trying to voice its honest opinion and it can't be ignored,” he said. “Ingersoll isn't laying down on this one.”