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OPAL raises concerns over 'inconsistent' public comment period

By John Tapley, Ingersoll Times

An Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) representative holds a copy of the group's comments on draft terms of reference for environmental assessment of the proposal by Walker Environmental Group to convert a mined lime quarry in the Township of Zorra into a landfill. The group arrived at Walker's Ingersoll office on Friday, June 21, the deadline day for public submissions to find the office closed despite a sign on the door that said "open, come in." Walker project manager Joe Lyng said the office on Carnegie Street is always closed on Fridays. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

An Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) representative holds a copy of the group's comments on draft terms of reference for environmental assessment of the proposal by Walker Environmental Group to convert a mined lime quarry in the Township of Zorra into a landfill. The group arrived at Walker's Ingersoll office on Friday, June 21, the deadline day for public submissions to find the office closed despite a sign on the door that said "open, come in." Walker project manager Joe Lyng said the office on Carnegie Street is always closed on Fridays. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The sign on the door said, “open, come in.” Instead, Walker Environmental Group's Ingersoll office was locked when members of Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) attempted to deliver comments on the landfill proposal's draft terms of reference on Friday, June 21.

Friday was deadline day for the initial public comment period on the draft terms of reference for the environmental assessment of the landfill Walker is proposing in the Township of Zorra.

OPAL research chair Suzanne Crellin said with the open sign displayed, the group initially thought public pressure had led the company to accept submissions on Friday.

“Unfortunately, the door was locked and there were no employees on site,” she said.

There appeared to be several submissions in a mailbox at the office that were unprotected from the weather.

“I assume someone will gather those on Monday (June 24),” said Crellin. “Hopefully, we don't have any rain between now and then.”

She said she would be returning to Walker's office on Carnegie Street on Monday morning to hand a hard copy of OPAL's comments to landfill project manager Joe Lyng.

When contacted by The Ingersoll Times, Lyng said the company's Ingersoll office is always closed on Friday's

The company's web site lists the office winter hours as Monday to Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lyng he received an electronic copy of OPAL's submission on Thursday.

“We certainly have the email copy and we thank them for that,” he said.

While the deadline has passed, comments on the draft terms of reference are still welcome, Lyng said, however, “we may not be able to adjust the terms of reference” (to reflect them).

OPAL has also submitted a letter to Oxford County MPP Ernie Hardeman, Warden Don McKay and county and municipal councils outlining its concerns about what it calls the “inconsistent and incomplete community comment period.”

“To the detriment of our citizens, Walker is not fulfilling Province of Ontario procedural requirements as laid out by the Ministry of Environment,” said OPAL in the letter dated June 20.

The group said Walker released its draft terms of reference for a 30-day comment period on May 23 and had advertised that it would be collecting public comments until June 28.

“Upon release of their submission, they suddenly reduced the comment period and said comments needed to be received before June 21, creating some confusion among individuals and organizations willing to review Walker's disturbing plan for a landfill in our county.”

OPAL also said that a complete a readable version of the draft terms of reference and appendices was not available for public review on their website (as per code of practice guidelines) until May 31.

“On June 6, OPAL officially requested that Walker extend their comment period a further 60 days, due to multiple errors in their conducting of the original comment period. We received no response from the proponent, but learned through the media that this request had been denied.”

OPAL said it is disappointed that the MOE project officer, Michelle Whitmore, in charge of Walker's EA, did not notify the proponent immediately that they were in violation of

their requirements for carrying out a public comment period.

“Although the draft is voluntary on the part of the proponent, the administration of a draft terms of reference has clear requirements under the Environmental Assessment Act and accompanying Code of Practice.”

The letter closes with the group calling on elected officials to “inquire about these inconsistencies, and launch a

formal complaint against the proponent; on behalf of our organization and all of your constituents.”

 


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