February 08, 2012

County will not redevelop landfill site

As published in The Erin Advocate

It is unlikely that Wellington County would ever consider recreational redevelopment of the old Erin Village landfill site, or even allow a walking trail to pass through it, according to the Manager of Solid Waste Services.

"When it's closed, it's closed forever," said Doug Konrad. "It is to be maintained as grass only."

The County took over the site, just west of the Credit River near Church Street, about ten years ago. It was closed in 2003 under a Certificate of Approval from the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).

Konrad said it would be an expensive process to re-open and alter the terms of that certificate, which would be required even for a trail, and it could expose the county to the risk of more stringent requirements from the MOE. If formal walking trails had existed in the area in 2003, there could have been provision for them in the closure plan.

Before Christmas, the county spent about $40,000 to install a 427-meter chain link fence along the south-east border of the landfill, starting at the river. About half that cost was to reinforce it with welded cross-beams, to deter vandals who have repeatedly torn down fences in the area.

The hilly countryside has been damaged by dirt bike and all-terrain vehicle riders, with resulting erosion on both county and private property.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing encourages municipalities to redevelop "brownfield" properties, such as former commercial, industrial or landfill sites, for more active use.

That is a costly process as well, but a brochure from that ministry says such redevelopment can support economic development and job creation, contribute to revitalization and "increase community pride and quality of life".

Other communities have successfully turned old landfills into nature parks. That option should at least be open for discussion and investigation in Erin. Research is being conducted on various uses for closed sites, even the growing of crops to be used as biofuel.

Machine traffic on the hills still has to be stopped, and maybe more fencing is inevitable. But hiker traffic carries a very low risk and it should be accommodated, even if it involves some cost. Monitor wells on the site need to be protected, but maybe there are ways to do this without turning the entire area into a fortress.

Konrad said that the MOE prefers chain link fencing at old landfills, but does not absolutely require it if the site is not being disturbed. The vandalism made it necessary to replace the old broken farm-style fences with chain link, he said. There is no immediate plan to replace the farm fences on the other sides of the landfill.

"We'll monitor the site and see what happens," he said. "Within a couple of years, it will probably be all fenced in."