While there is a lot of press over big-pictures issues, including PFAS, climate change, and pollution from plastic waste, environmental management issues; however, are not nearly as lofty or newsworthy. Environmental management issues are likely to be far more pedestrian, like “What do we do with all this soil?”
Dumping Soil and Debris in Open Lots
One of those management issues that we talked about on numerous occasions is the soil and debris from construction activity (see Management of Excess Soils in Ontario: Official Changes Begin in 2020). Based on a recent report, there is still work to be done when it comes to management of soil and debris.
The CBC reported, “Hundreds of dump-truck loads of dirt, garbage and construction waste are piling up in Scarborough neighbourhoods, costing property owners and taxpayers a lot of money to clean up, but the city says it’s having trouble keeping up with the illegal practice.”
According to this report, “Dump-truck drivers are ditching the loads on private properties, city streets and parking lots.”
Chronic Problem of Illegal Dumping
This recent news story does not appear to be isolated. Joe Magalhaes, District Manager of Municipal Licensing and Standards in Toronto, said, “Each year across the city we get thousands of complaints.” The article goes on to say that in the past two years, more than 200 citations have been issued for illegal dumping. Mr. Magalhaes said that when they can identify the responsible party (not often), they do charge them with illegal dumping.
Dave Youngs, who owns an excavation company, said he has spent $20,000 to cleanup dozens of loads of soil and debris dumped on properties he owns.
Excess Soil Regulations
We now have the excess soils management regulations in Ontario (Reg. 406/19: On-Site and Excess Soil Management). However, as stated above, what is going on currently is not a regulatory gap, it is an ethics gap.
One of the goals of the regulation is to encourage the reuse of soils rather than disposal. However, a provision in the regulation will restrict landfilling of excess soils by 2025. Long before 2025, these “bad actors” need to be identified before we see even more dumping of soils on vacant lots.
In another environmental management issue that is a bit of a head scratcher, landfill leachate that was collected from the closed Richmond Landfill (closed in 2011) was dumped on open land.
Leachate is the concentrated liquid that is collected and stored on the perimeter of landfills. This leachate (which has concentrated levels of various pollutants as well as significant odor) is typically pumped from leachate collection areas and is taken to wastewater treatment plants for treatment.
Tanker of Leachate Mishandled
According to reports, a tanker truck had collected about 16,000 litres of leachate from the landfill and attempted to unload the leachate at the Greater Napanee Waste Water Treatment Plant. Unfortunately, due to recent rainfall, they could not accept the leachate.
The tanker of leachate was then directed to a contingency lagoon at the landfill where the leachate could be disposed. While driving to the lagoon, the soft ground gave the driver concern that he might get stuck in the mud.
The driver was then directed by personnel at the landfill to back the truck to the edge of a wooded area to dump the leachate on the open ground.
A Statement Regarding the Incident
Jennifer Kropf, communications manager for Waste Management, who is the responsible company, said, “Waste Management does not condone this practice. We are taking this event very seriously and continue to work closely with the ministry on next steps.” She also said that Waste Management is “…conducting a full investigation and will take immediate action.”
While Waste Management does some triage and is likely working on training and communications, this can serve as a reminder to all to reexamine policies, training, communications, etc. (something that every company should look at routinely).
As evidenced above, sometimes it is time for policy changes (from the government or internally). When environmental management systems need addressing, it is best to act sooner than later to avoid unpleasant consequences.
Do you need help with an environmental issue? Put our nearly 35 years of experience to work for you. For more information, contact me at 519-979-7300, Ext 114.
Principled Foundation | Thoughtful Advice | Smart Solutions