MRC special meeting – Mayors approve $100K for EFW business plan

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Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – A special sitting of the Council of Mayors was held August 24 at the MRC headquarters in Litchfield, starting with public questions.

Prior to the meeting, Linda Davis, of Shawville, sent an email with 18 questions about the Energy from Waste (EFW) project; they covered a variety of concerns including the absence of a feasibility study and environmental assessment in advance of a business plan. She believes not enough groundwork has been done in comparison to the steps taken by Durham York in proceeding with their EFW project.

Warden Jane Toller addressed many of the issues Davis raised and stressed the need to end landfills. She reiterated that MRC Pontiac is a willing host for EFW with four councils of mayors voting in support of exploring the idea since 2010. She said the business plan will provide answers and specifics such as proposed tonnage and tipping fees.

“We need to take a step to evaluate properly and have expertise to help us do this,” said Toller, who noted the potential revenue generated by the sale of recyclables and electricity produced by the EFW plant. “A business plan is just another step and it’s going to tell us whether our plan, our hope, is a good one,” she added.

Sylvie Landriault of L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet, asking on behalf of Pat Shank, wanted to know why the shores of the Ottawa River were chosen for the project.

Toller responded that the former Smurfit-Stone site was chosen because of its heavy industrial and waste management zoning. She spoke of the possibility of sending compost to Uteau, a neighbouring waste treatment facility. According to Toller, the owner of Uteau is interested in providing property for the EFW plant.

Toller highlighted the importance of bringing industry and jobs back to the Pontiac: “The Pontiac’s success came through industry… Industry brings economic development and jobs… There are some people, especially new people, who would just like to see this as a wilderness and beautiful eco-tourism area with nothing but cycling, kayaking, and enjoying nature. But we also have a population we need to support and many of them have to leave the Pontiac to work…This [project] will bring a lot of good fortune and revitalization to the Pontiac.”

Toller addressed environmental concerns saying: “We will not build anything that’s not healthy or that doesn’t meet the very stringent environmental standards of the Ministry of Environment.”

Landriault then asked how noise and odours from the EFW plant could be managed given that they’re not well managed by Uteau now. Toller said these issues wouldn’t be problematic with an EFW plant as the trucks delivering waste drive into the building to dump and the incinerator isn’t noisy. Landriault concluded by asking if a referendum could be held on the issue. Toller said referendums are usually held at the time of elections, which are expected in 2025.

One resident, Helen Routliffe, of Fort Coulonge, spoke in favour of the EFW project saying it will “create jobs, put us on the map, and make us financially sustainable.”

Later, the mayors moved to spend $100,000 from the MRC surplus to hire Deloitte to produce a business plan for the EFW project, with payment made after council has approved Deloitte’s proposal. The total cost of the business plan will be $120,000 with $20,000 previously budgeted. The vote resulted in a majority, with 12 mayors voting yes and Clarendon, Chichester, Bristol, Otter Lake, Litchfield, and Waltham voting in opposition.