July 13, 1999
Globe & Mail
A Toronto environmental group thinks the city should start all over again in its search for a way to deal with the two million tonnes of garbage it must handle each year.
The Toronto Environmental Alliance condemned a list of business proposals for dealing with the city's garbage yesterday. "It's a cancer and pollution list," said Shelley Petrie of the Toronto Environment Alliance at a city hall press conference.
The alliance wants the city's works committee to reject the list when city staff report on it at a meeting tomorrow and to ask them to re-examine the problem from scratch.
Last October, council asked the city's works staff to study what should be done with the city's garbage when room in the Keele Valley dump runs out in 2001.
The city asked potential bidders to express an interest in handling garbage, and it received 32 proposals. In a report that will go the works committee, the staff said that eight of the proposals have been disqualified for not dealing with the issue, but 24 of them ought to go to the next stage of a selection process that is expected to run to February of 2001. That is when the next city council is slated to approve final contracts with selected bidders.
The environmental alliance said that large-scale landfill and incineration, the main proposals on the list, should be rejected because
incineration releases toxic compounds into the air and large dumps release poisonous leachates into ground water.
Instead, the city should look for a variety of innovative, small-scale ways to dealing with its garbage and should not sign long-term contracts with bidders, the alliance's Gord Perks said.
But Mayor Mel Lastman defended city staff for coming up with alternative proposals. "That's their job, to come up with all alternatives, and then it's up to the politicians to make the decision."
He said that he has no problem with shipping garbage to an old open-pit mine in Kirkland Lake if the proponents of that project give the city the lowest price for sending garbage to a dump.
He said that he does not support a garbage incinerator in Toronto, since city council has rejected the idea, but he would not oppose incineration elsewhere if it is shown to be environmentally safe. "If it doesn't pollute the air, I have no problem with it."
Councillor Jack Layton criticized the bidders for proposing "old-fashioned, blast-it-into-the-air incinerators. It's absolutely nuts. We spent years shutting down the incinerators on our waterfront."