Biologist cites concerns over landfill
A species-at-risk-biologist says he has concerns about potential groundwater contamination stemming from the Irondale landfill and its implications for wildlife, and is requesting that Minden Hills council close and cap the site, transforming it into a transfer station.
Originally from Irondale, Todd Powell is now the director of environmental programs for the Yukon government. He is still a property owner in the area.
In May, a delegation of Irondale residents made a presentation to council regarding the state of the facility – citing setbacks from residences and waterbodies that do not meet provincial standards, insufficient covering and blowing garbage – and requesting its closure.
“Since bringing this forward, there has been a real response to that and we very much appreciate it,” Powell said, adding “there’s still some distance to travel.”
Environmental and property operations manager Ivan Ingram has said the parameters of the site are permitted under its certificate of approval from the province.
“At the moment, there are reports available to us, we’ve seen interpretations of those reports,” Powell said, referencing staff reports based on reports from consultants who do testing at the site. “What’s in those reports, there’s interpretations from the raw data from the consultant, there’s interpretations from what that consultant’s report says that’s been presented to you. I’m here to suggest that those interpretations have opportunity to be reconsidered, and looked at in a different way. Some of those interpretations suggest that there’s no problem with the groundwater. What my experience is, in managing groundwater, landfills and potential environmental liability from that, is quite different than, what I read in those reports, from what I see in those interpretations presented to you.”
Powell said he’d send correspondence to the municipality with specific details about these discrepancies.
“It comes down to, does it get into the groundwater, and what does it mean if it does?” Powell continued. He said he believes the monitoring wells at the site are insufficient. One inadvertently damaged by a neighbouring property owner is being replaced.
He noted the the Milburn Wetland Complex – 640 hectares that include 62 linked wetlands, which are home to a wide array of the county’s flora and fauna – was deemed provincially significant last year.
“That’s something that’s new, and it’s different, and it has some consequences around this risk of environmental liability, specifically when it comes to groundwater and groundwater contamination outside the borders of the facility,” Powell said.
He noted that the Blanding’s turtle, a species at risk, is present in the wetland and said that a new recovery strategy for the turtle is being developed. While it is in draft at this time, he said it’s set to become public next year.
Within that new legislation, will be something called “critical habitat,” “and once a species has critical habitat identified for it, which the provincially significant wetland was designated because of the presence of this turtle . . . you now have a different level of scrutiny, so to speak, on the township’s actions, as well as us as landowners, we’re all in this together, when it comes to management of those habitat areas.”
“Once a habitat is designated critical, there is zero room for contamination or alteration of that habitat,” Powell said.
He proposed the landfill be closed, capped and converted to a transfer station.
“Closure and capping, properly, that site, will deal with the bulk of these problems, and then we’re just left with the monitoring,” he said.
“Wow, thank you,” said Mayor Brent Devolin. “Obviously we have issues with landfills . . . I look forward to your recommendations, certainly you’re a specialist in this area.”
“The significant wetlands is a game-changer,” Devolin said.
Council has been discussing converting the Irondale landfill to a transfer station, something that has also been recommended by Ingram.
Council is awarding a contract for the replacement of the monitoring well and the creation of a design and operations plan for the site to GHD Limited for a total of just less than $8,000.
“In terms of the design and operations plan . . . does this lead up to the metamorphosis of it into a transfer station?” Devolin asked Ingram. “Would it be fair to say in 2019, or sometime sooner . . . how quickly can it happen?”
“We’ll have to get it costed,” Ingram said, adding, “There’s not a lot to do out there, in terms of turning it into a transfer station.”
Ingram has said the amount of garbage being deposited at the Irondale landfill is relatively minimal. He said when the Ingoldsby landfill was converted to a transfer station, it cost about $50,000. That was nearly a decade ago.