News Local

Oro-Medonte mayor, businessman say potential organics plant site doesn’t make sense

Mehreen Shahid (the Packet &Times) and Andrew Philips (special to the Packet & Times)

(File photo)

(File photo)

One of the potential sites for a county organics-processing plant should be taken off the table, says an Oro-Medonte Township businessman. And the mayor agrees.

“The (main) reason we’re objecting to it is this site is in the Oro Moraine, which drains into Georgian Bay, lakes Huron and Simcoe,” Jack Sasseville, president and general manager of Hardwood Ski and Bike, said of the site on Line 5 being considered by the County of Simcoe. “Plus, it’ll negatively affect our customers’ experience.”

His business, which is located in the vicinity of the proposed organic waste-management facility, abuts a pre-existing landfill site. According to Sasseville, the presence of the landfill doesn’t affect the customer experience as much as, he anticipates, the stench from organic waste will.

The area is marked as rural, and Sasseville doesn’t understand how the county can consider it for industrial construction. Another issue that concerns him is the increase in traffic on Line 5 owing to trucks travelling to and from the site.

“Their estimates are that there will be up to 210 big 18-wheelers on that road,” said Sasseville. “There are three major hills on the road and there’s barely enough space for two cars to go by.”

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes shares Sasseville's concerns.

“I visited all sites they’ve proposed and I cannot see how the site on Line 5 would be a good site,” Hughes said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate from a transportation point of view. It would mean trucks will have to be routed on Line 5 North, which is not a county road; it’s a municipal road and is not up to standard for the amount of trucking involved.”

Currently, the county sends its organic waste to a location in Hamilton.

The county is looking at several proposed sites in the areas of Oro-Medonte, Springwater and Clearview townships for a new facility.

A press release from the county states consultants went through several proposed sites and shortlisted five. Following that selection, 10 public consultations sessions were held in October to inform residents and get feedback.

Results from all consultation sessions will be taken to county council in early 2016 and more deliberations will take place before a final decision is made.

Hughes suggested the new plant be built on a site on one of the main roads that can handle the increase in traffic.

Simcoe County Warden Gerry Marshall said concerns heard during the 10 public input sessions have been documented.

“Our staff have also met in person with these individuals to answer their questions and hear their concerns,” Marshall said, pointing out he attended all 10 sessions while Deputy Warden Terry Dowdall has participated in nine.

“Their input is being considered along with all the feedback we’ve received to date.”

As well, Marshall said, all members of the municipal councils of Oro-Medonte, Springwater and Clearview have attended sessions and been given tours of similar types of facilities and been driven to all seven remaining sites.

“Our engagement process mirrors the official environmental assessment process. We are also fielding comments through email and through personal meetings with residents.”

Marshall said the county continues to meet with First Nations representatives and local stakeholder groups, including conservation authorities, to obtain their feedback.

“In my opinion, these meetings have been extremely successful and beneficial,” he said. “We gained important insights from neighbours with local knowledge of the proposed sites and we were able to directly address misinformation about the projects.”

But Marshall said he understands facilities such as the one being considered can become a sensitive issue.

“The siting process is extremely detailed and scientific,” he said. “It considers a full range of criteria including environment, transportation, costs and impacts on surrounding neighbours, businesses and communities.”

He said the county wants to minimize potential impacts as much as possible through the siting process, as well as through the selection of technology.

“Furthermore, we are taking a stronger role in economic development and we’re here to support our local economy and business owners,” he said, noting since staff and councillors represent all county residents, they are looking at diversion projects after council earlier committed to not building any new landfills.

“Current waste-collection operations leave us vulnerable to rising costs and limited capacity to increase diversion or add new materials to our programs,” he said. “The projects demonstrate sound environmental leadership … an investment in diversion for future generations.”

He said the initiative allows for expansion of the green-bin program and will save ratepayers money in the long run with savings tagged at roughly $13 million over the next two decades in tax dollars.

“Local facilities would allow us to reduce environmental impacts from export of waste,” he said, adding they would also support local agricultural initiatives through the creation of valuable products such as compost.

“I am thrilled with the process thus far and look forward to next steps, which will include further consultation once a preferred site is identified.”