By Ian Ross
Bill Enouy, Kirkland Lake mayor, is not holding out much hope that a composting plant proposal designed to handle Toronto's burgeoning garbage problems would be accepted by mega-city politicians any time soon.
But, like the provincial Tories, he is not totally ruling it out yet.
"We've been doing this for 11 years. Every time we think it's dead, it comes back," says Enouy.
The project, has the potential to create 90 jobs in his town with the construction of a state-of-the-art facility at the Adams mine, but has been blacklisted by Toronto politicians and stigmatized by protesters that scuttled an earlier Rail Cycle North proposal to dump millions of tonnes of garbage into the abandoned open pit mine.
After signing a deal in December with a Michigan landfill company, Toronto intends to truck its garbage down the Highway 401 corridor to Republic Services Inc.'s site in Wayne County, Mich.
What kind of reception they will receive at the Canada-U.S. border is anyone's guess, considering the opposition of a number of southwestern Ontario mayors, Michigan legislators and candidates for governor running on a platform of no outside garbage.
In a November press conference, Gord McGuinty, who heads Rail Cycle North, and United Transportation spokesperson Glenn King accused the Harris government of "dropping the ball" in stealing away a $600-million contract from Northern Ontario.
"Especially when Northern Ontario is so economically depressed and the offshoots of this project are so considerable," says Enouy.
Despite assurances from Premier Mike Harris, both McGuinty and King demanded the premier stay true to his word in ordering an environmental assessment of the Toronto-to-Michigan plan.
Enouy says without a big contract from Toronto, the Enviroganic composting project cannot proceed, since the Adams Mine owners - McGuinty's Notre Development Group and their partners - cannot be expected to pour about $90 million to $100 million in needed infrastructure improvements into the site.
The composting plant is one of the keystone projects proposed by the town and private development interests to transform the slumping mining and forestry community of 9,000 into a waste-reduction centre of excellence.
The town had offered an attractive incentive package with a plan that could cost Toronto between $70 million and $100 million less over the next 20 years than it would pay to truck waste across the border.
Kirkland Lake was prepared to invest $20 million in capital money to build the composting plant, along with offering free transport and processing for the first 25,000 tonnes of waste a year over a 20-year period, with the second 25,000 tonnes brought in at the same price as landfilling it.
Despite Toronto rapidly growing out of its landfill capacity at the Keele Valley dump in Vaughan, Enouy says his presentation of their enviroganic waste diversion last summer to the city's works committee largely fell on deaf ears.
"Adams Mine is a dirty word to them," Enouy says.
Although he has few allies at Toronto city hall, Enouy harbours some optimism that the proposal will remain alive as Greater Toronto's only viable back-up plan, especially if border tie-ups and pressure from Queen's Park and the State of Michigan force them to scuttle the deal.
"There will be a day when there is no other proposal on the table but ours," says Enouy. "I don't see how you can site a landfill in Ontario when you let 50 radicals dictate policy for you. The only licensed landfill in Ontario suitable for that tonnage of garbage is the Adams mine."