In today’s Toronto Star, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and former Toronto mayor and Tiny Township resident David Crombie write:
“Cool weather has not chilled hot passions in a showdown in the rolling hills of Simcoe county’s Tiny Township.
There, First Nations women, farmers, local residents, seniors and students have come together to protest Site 41 – a planned dumpsite that will sit atop the Alliston aquifer, an underground water reservoir that extends from Georgian Bay to Lake Simcoe and the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Site 41 has been hotly contested for more than 15 years, but the Ministry of the Environment finally signed off on the permit and a badly divided county council allowed excavation to begin in early summer.
Recently, a growing chorus of voices has called for a one-year moratorium in order to hold the public hearings that never took place and to allow for an independent scientific assessment of the model used to grant the permit, which has never been made public.
Proponents of Site 41 question the reason for a moratorium and claim they know enough about the project to move ahead.
However, there are several new developments that would justify a moratorium.
First, the permit was granted on the belief that the water in the aquitard (below the surface but above the aquifer) flows upward, and that garbage will pose no threat to the aquifer. It was in fact a condition for granting the permit that the site have uninterrupted ‘upward gradients.’
However, several recent observations tell a different story. A monitoring well on the site shows signs that there is a connection between the upper groundwater and the aquifer, which would be a violation of the permit conditions.
In fact, an independent hydrogeologist, the late David Charlesworth, warned county council that water in the aquitard was in some places flowing downward, which could put the aquifer at risk. The method used to grant the Site 41 permit was ‘fundamentally flawed,’ he declared.
Second, since the Alliston aquifer was chosen for a dumpsite many years ago, much has been learned in Canada and around the world about the need to protect watersheds and water basins.
In 2006, recognizing the crucial need to protect Ontario’s water resources, the government passed the Clean Water Act, which states that stopping contaminants from getting into our drinking water supplies is the first line of defence in protecting our environment and our health.
Ontario Environment Commissioner Gordon Miller has stated that if the decision were to be taken today, the Alliston aquifer would never have been chosen for a dumpsite.
Finally, opposition to Site 41 has grown dramatically. In a recent online poll, 85 per cent of local residents supported the blockade to stop construction.
Politicians from all political parties, provincial and federal environmental groups and respected leaders such as David Suzuki have come together to protect the aquifer, the source of drinking water so clean that it is referred to as “reference water” – the gold standard of water quality – by a university laboratory in Germany.
Does Simcoe County Council want to be known as the community that put a dumpsite on the purist water in the world? Or can we all step back now and call a one-year halt while we decide how best to be stewards of this water for the future?”
Their op-ed can be read at http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/671646.
The Toronto Star is Canada’s highest circulation newspaper with 436,694 daily readers of the print newspaper, and more than 664,200 weekly readers of the on-line edition.
For extensive information about Site 41, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/Site41/index.html.