The Globe and Mail - 12/31/02 - Print Edition, Page A12

Battle over dumpsite looms as landfill closes


City councillors and environmentalists are bracing for another fight against a proposed dump in an abandoned Ontario mine after the Keele Valley landfill closes permanently tonight.

From now on, 130 truckloads of Toronto's garbage must roll every day along the already clogged Highway 401 to Michigan.

Every piece of garbage tossed out in the city will travel 400 kilometres to a giant burial pit north of Detroit.

Protests are planned on both sides of the border, said Jeff Surfus of No Waste, a Michigan environmental coalition opposed to importing trash.

The trucks and the waste they bring are hazards to everyone's health, he said.

Members of Recycle Toronto will mark the final trash delivery to the Keele site in Maple, Ont., this afternoon with a champagne toast. Messages will be read from No Waste and a coalition that was formed to stop a plan to dump Toronto's trash in the Adams Mine near Kirkland Lake.

The Keele closing is sure to revive efforts to take the garbage north, said Councilor David Miller, who led a fight in city council against the Adams Mine plan.

The plan was quashed in 1995 only to resurface in 2000, after which Mayor Mel Lastman declared it officially dead.

"We have to hold the mayor to his word," Mr. Miller said.

He said he has heard from several sources that the same promoters are trying to rally the support of northern mayors and want one of the province's "smart growth" panels to approve a non-governmental garbage authority with powers to set up landfills in spite of local opposition.

While the convoys of monster trash trucks to Michigan are unacceptable, a dump in the abandoned mine would be even worse, said Councillor Jack Layton, who also opposed the plan.

In addition to concerns that leaking waste could pollute farms, the 20-year commitment that Toronto would have to sign to dump in the mine would subvert a goal of recycling most of the city's waste within a decade, Mr. Layton said.

At the moment, about 30 per cent of solid waste is recycled, which means at least 4,500 tonnes has to be dumped in the landfill every day, said Angelos Bacopolous, the city's general manager of waste management.

 The long haul is time-consuming and labour-intensive, but if the smaller garbage trucks that pick up at curbside had to deliver it to Michigan, it could mean 500 or more round trips every day, Mr. Bacopoulos said.

 The collection trucks dump waste at one of seven transfer stations around the city.

 There, big bulldozers roll over it to compact it, then load it into the 35-tonne trucks for the trip to Michigan. After it is dumped there, more bulldozers compress the mess even more, then cover the pile with soil.

 Mr. Layton said the city could still meet a goal of recycling all residential and commercial waste by 2010.

 A trial collection of compostable kitchen waste was a success, with 90 per cent of Etobicoke residents using "green boxes."

 More composting centres must be built, but by 2005 the city hopes to collect kitchen waste from all single-family homes in the city, Mr. Bacapoulos said.

 Recycling organic waste from apartments will be more complicated and expensive because it requires refitting waste chutes and bins, but the city is experimenting with several options, he said.

 Keele Valley will require constant maintenance for years to come, but might eventually become a park or golf course, Mr. Bacapoulos said.

 Not many people remember that downtown Riverdale Park, Marie Curtis Park in Etobicoke and Scarlett Woods in York were once dumpsites, he said.