Farmers blocked the road to the North Simcoe Landfill, also known as Site 41, with tractors yesterday in a peaceful demonstration that lasted about six hours and prevented dump trucks from reaching the landfill.
Upwards of 40 tractors showed up on Conc. 2 East around 10 a. m. and left by 4 p. m.
Provincial police arrived shortly before noon and talked to a number of protesters, but the farmers were not ordered to clear out. Southern Georgian Bay OPP also closed Conc. 3 and Dawsons Sideroad, restricting vehicular and pedestrian traffic from entering the area at all points, Const. Peter Leon said.
Bob Ritchie, of Elmvale, said the issue is quite simply about water.
“We are concerned what this will do to the water,” he said. “They couldn’t have chosen a worse place for a dump.”
Ritchie complained that people are not getting answers to their questions.
“They say it’s safe. I doubt we have a dump in Canada that won’t pollute,” he said. “The warranty on the liners is for two years and on the liner itself is only 20 years.”
Site 41 is being developed north of Elmvale to accept trash from four municipalities.
Farmer Roy Nahuis echoed Ritchie’s feelings, saying Simcoe County is not listening to farmers.
“We don’t want any garbage at this site whatsoever. There’s more water underground than most people believe. This will be 10 times worse than the Pauze dump site,” he said, referring to a family-run dump near Perkinsfield which has closed.
Local farmers have long been opposed to development of Site 41 because of their concerns that leachate from the site will eventually damage the source water for their wells. Water beneath Site 41 has been described as “the purest in the world.”
Simcoe County Warden Tony Guergis said the new landfill will keep it that way.
“This site is a fully provincially approved landfill site and an essential part of the infrastructure required by the County of Simcoe to provide waste management services,” he said, adding “people are generally misinformed about the project.
“It’s been given the green light in every capacity,” the warden said. “The residents of the four municipalities — Tiny, Tay, Penetanguishene and Midland — create waste and we have to get rid of it.”
Guergis said he hoped people participating in any demonstrations would “govern themselves accordingly. We were certainly respectful of the First Nations’ demonstration. It was peaceful and respectful,” he said.
“But this is a few individuals acting on their own. I’m disappointed they’re holding back hard-working people,” he said. “Fifteen employees were impacted. Some were caught in the protest in their vehicles. Some were able to do a limited amount of work inside the site. That’s wasting taxpayers’ money.”
A news release issued by John Nahuis, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s director in Tiny Township, said community residents and the farming community were “furious after hearing an interview with the environment minister on a Toronto radio program last week.
“How can the minister of the environment say Site 41 is good science? It’s quite obvious that the environmental commissioner of Ontario has his doubts about putting a landfill in such a sensitive area and has reported this repeatedly to the MOE asking for a complete review,” Nahuis said.
“Maude Barlow, water adviser for the United Nations, has raised her concerns, Ontario Nature, Ontario Federation of Agriculture and Simcoe County Federation of Agriculture feel their concerns have not been addressed and the Ministry of the Environment should never have approved the Permit to Take Water,” he added.
The federation says “the landfill project was (initially) rejected after a 70-day environmental assessment hearing in 1989. However, the Ontario government intervened and overturned the decision through an order-in- council.”
Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop has a private members’ bill before the Ontario legislature that, if passed, would kill the project.
Some members of the Christian Island community who oppose the landfill have been staging a peaceful protest on a farm field opposite Site 41.
The campsite is on land owned by Art Parnell, who says the location is not a proper site for a dump. “We have two flow wells on our farm and the landfill will jeopardize the water in the wells,” said Parnell, a dairy farmer.