Sorting Centre hits “a crossroad” – 32 laid off as business ceases operations

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Allyson Beauregard

LITCHFIELD – The Pontiac Sorting Centre’s (SC) management held a press conference at the business on December 13 to announce they would be ceasing

Allyson Beauregard

LITCHFIELD – The Pontiac Sorting Centre’s (SC) management held a press conference at the business on December 13 to announce they would be ceasing
operations and laying off 32 employees – their entire workforce – as of December 15, because they haven’t obtained a permit from the Ministry of the Environment to create a landfill across the street.
“We won’t be accepting anything from municipalities, entrepreneurs or citizens. We’re simply not licensed to dispose of left-over debris once recyclables have been value-added or reused; disposing of them [at the former mill landfill site across the street] is turning out to be an impossible proposition. We would need to transport the left-over waste to Lachute, which isn’t a viable solution,” said Gerry Philippe, Sorting Centre Director of Operations, noting the transport costs, tipping fees and greenhouse gas emissions make it too costly.  
The only incoming debris will be from Amor Construction, the SC’s “sister company”, so the centre will become a private sorting centre. “We used to accept shingles from about 150 entrepreneurs. They will now have to travel to Lachute or another licensed landfill site,” said Philippe. The debris from 52 house demolitions following the spring flooding were supposed to go to the SC, but will now have to be diverted elsewhere, resulting in extreme price increases for the homeowners. 
The SC submitted the application for a certificate of authorization to create
the landfill in 2014, but haven’t received a response, although Philippe says
they have answered all the Ministry’s questions and provided all required professional and technical reports.
Raymond Durocher, SC manager, stressed the Ministry’s refusal to cooperate despite the business’ attempts to accomplish what they asked for. “They visit and tell you one thing, and then a couple weeks later say something different,” he recounted. Durocher said a Ministry official said all questions were answered and they were in the process of writing the authorization, but when they called to inquire three weeks later, they were told it was still under review.
The SC has received 10 notices of non-conformity since May 2013 and was fined over $40,000 last fall for four offences dating back to 2013 and 2015 for improperly storing materials, not installing waterproofed sorting surfaces, and not having proper waste water treatment units. On April 9, the Ministry issued a
preliminary refusal notice for the landfill request, which basically meant a permanent refusal would follow if conditions didn’t improve at the SC. On May 3, Minister Benoit Charette ordered the SC to cease the deposit and burial of all types of residual materials in unauthorized places and create a plan to restore them back to their original states.
However, according to Philippe, most of the Ministry’s requirements have been met and they have done “a pretty good job” of the clean-up so far. Some of the SC’s employees will be immediately rehired by Amor Construction to finish the cleanup of the SC site, but this will only be short-term.
“We hope this is only a temporary situation. All will depend on the developments between the SC and the Ministry,” concluded Philippe.
In August, following a resolution passed by MRC Vallée-de-la-Gatineau, the MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors requested that the government investigate the Ministry of the Environment’s permit application process; they claim it is riddled with long and unwarranted delays that impact the region’s economic development.
MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller stated the situation shows a lack of communication and inability to work together on the part of the Ministry. “We don’t want to see any Pontiac business close,” she said. Both the MRC Pontiac and Litchfield expressed their support for the landfill project earlier this year.