Proposal for EFW business plan approved

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Bonnie James
Local Journalism Initiative

MRC PONTIAC – A special meeting of the MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors was held at the MRC headquarters in Litchfield, October 25, to vote on Deloitte’s business plan proposal for the Energy from Waste (EFW) project.

The meeting began with a public question period. Remo Pasteris of Bristol expressed concerns with environmental impact and liability, citing the class-action lawsuit against CFB Valcartier over contaminated drinking water and concerns with Rouyn Noranda’s Horne smelter as examples; “I’m concerned not only about my health, but also about the financial impact of this proposal.” He asked if liability was considered and when an environmental assessment will be done.

MRC Warden Jane Toller said the project is still in the early stages and a business study, to be made public when finished, will look at the financial aspects and find the cleanest technology. An environmental assessment will follow, and all Pontiac residents will be invited to participate. She also promised to follow up on Pasteris’ liability concerns.

Christine Anderson of Thorne asked if the MRC was “putting the cart before the horse” by investing $120,000 in a business plan without commitments from Ottawa, Gatineau, and other municipalities to provide the additional waste required to feed the incinerator.

Toller explained that other municipalities couldn’t be approached without the information to be provided by the business plan. “We haven’t done all our research. Before we can invite them to our facility, we need to know what it’s going to cost… we really can’t do anything until we obtain this necessary information.”

Anderson asked if it’s true that a landfill will still be required if an incinerator is built. Toller conceded that a smaller landfill is needed for some of the ash produced by an incinerator, but that a portion of the ash could be used to produce concrete and asphalt as well.

Anderson noted that public support for the incinerator isn’t unanimous, with an online petition collecting close to 500 signatures in opposition: https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-pontiac-incinerator. Toller said the petition’s imagery and wording aren’t reflective of modern EFW incinerators and portray an old style from the 1950s.

Time to vote
When Deloitte’s proposal was raised on the agenda, Bryson Mayor Alain Gagnon made a motion for an in-camera discussion prior to the vote. No explanation was given, and at least two mayors voted against the in-camera discussion. In-camera sessions are used to discuss sensitive matters and aren’t open to the public or media, who were asked to leave. The discussion lasted nearly an hour before the public and media were invited back in.

Chichester Mayor Donald Gagnon responded: “Money spent at the MRC affects all municipalities.” Litchfield Mayor Colleen Larivière also spoke in opposition: “I firmly disagree with $100,000 being taken from the surplus. There are other avenues.”

Portage-du-Fort Mayor Lynne Cameron expressed support for the proposal: “We have to start somewhere, and I think it’s today.” Several other mayors agreed with the need to proceed.

The resolution passed with 12 mayors in favour of Deloitte’s proposal, and six against: Ed Walsh (Clarendon), Donald Gagnon (Chichester), Brent Orr (Bristol), Terry Lafleur (Otter Lake), Colleen Larivière (Litchfield) and Odette Godin (Waltham).