Local Journalism Initiative
THORNE – A meeting billed as a “Meet and Greet” by the newly formed group “Friends of the Pontiac” was held at the Thorne Municipal Hall on November 16. Twenty-five interested citizens, including MRC Warden Jane Toller, were in attendance and heard concerns regarding the MRC’s proposal to construct a Waste to Energy Incinerator at the former pulp mill site in Litchfield.
The evening began with Friends of the Pontiac Committee member Remo Pasteris setting out ground rules for the event and introducing the three main speakers.
First, Jennifer Quaile, a municipal councillor and the Pro Mayor of the Municipality of Otter Lake, began by describing her background as a project assessment officer with the Federal Government. She said her experience enabled her to see flaws in the way the proposed incinerator project was being presented to the public. Quaile also sits on the Waste Management Committee at the MRC and said that she became aware the committee had no input into the decision-making about the project. Quaile described how she endeavoured to educate herself using credible university-based studies about similar projects and noticed that there was a vast discrepancy between what she was reading and what was being presented by the MRC Warden in her presentations about the project. She said that issues brought forward at the MRC and in public forums were met by Warden Toller with a refusal to acknowledge the validity of her concerns.
Next, Linda Davis described her previous experience as a municipal councillor in Ottawa and emphasized the importance of open and transparent government. Davis pointed out that the numbers don’t add up, whether the amount of garbage required to make the project feasible, the willingness of other areas to truck in their garbage or the projected operating costs. Davis questioned the reality of claims made by Warden Toller about every aspect of the project and urged citizens to do the research so that they could ask informed questions about such an impactful issue.
Finally, Remo Pasteris described his experience working for Agriculture Canada with training in environmental assessment technology and his scientific background. He described the potential and real drawbacks to the incinerator systems which have been experienced by facilities in the USA and in Europe which, in his estimation, are not being acknowledged by the Warden at this time.
Questions to the speakers from the audience showed different levels of awareness of the details of the proposed project. A high level of concern was expressed regarding the openness of the process to the public and that a heightened level of transparency in governance is needed. Committee member Christine Anderson closed the meeting by encouraging everyone to stay engaged in education and promotion of cooperative ventures to preserve and enhance our environment.