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Southwestern Landfill Environmental Assessment

Environmental FAQ

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What is leachate?

Leachate is any water (generally from precipitation, such as rain or snow) that has come into contact with waste disposed in a landfill. 

Leaching is a natural process that happens when water comes into contact with virtually any substance. In the case of groundwater, minerals and salts leach from the soil and rocks producing 'hard' water.

In the case of landfills, leachate is generated when water comes into contact with waste and certain substances (ie. salt or iron) leach into the water. This liquid is called leachate and must be collected and treated before it can be released back into the natural environment.

A landfill liner is an example of how leachate is collected. A liner prevents leachate from coming into contact with groundwater. The leachate is collected on top of the liner, then is removed from the landfill where it is treated at water treatment plant before it can be discharged to the natural environment.

For more information about water management, please review the Proposal FAQ page. 

Why can't we eliminate the need for a landfill through more diversion activities such as recycling and incineration?

The waste management hierarchy states the order of preference for actions to reduce and manage waste that start with prevention and end with disposal. Walker Environmental follows these principles and supports reduction, reuse and recycling (3 R's) that are crucial in developing a sustainable waste management and resource recovery system. 

However, there are still materials that cannot be reused or recycled. Disposal facilities such as incinerators or landfills are required to safely manage these materials. As Ontario's population grows, so does the amount of waste generated. Currently in Ontario, more than 9 million tonnes per year of waste is safely disposed of in landfills. 

During the transition to a zero waste society, Ontario will require reliable, economical and safe facilities to dispose of materials that are not reusable or recyclable. Incineration can play a role, as it does in Europe, however the North American market supports landfills as the primary disposal method. Incineration is typically more expensive and still requires landfills to dispose of leftover ash, which can be as much as 30% by weight of the initial waste.

Walker Environmental supports and invests in waste diversion businesses. We are a leader in recovering resources by creating new value from organic waste. This includes composting, biosolids processing, food residuals recycling, wood grinding, and wood products such as mulch. 

How will you address potential effects on the quality of water?

The Environmental Assessment will include scientific and engineering studies by third-party experts in the fields of groundwater, surface water, and the related ecological sciences. These experts designed draft work plans for these studies that were submitted as supplementary materials during the first phase of the EA (Terms of Reference).

During the second phase (study phase), the work plans will be finalized with input from the community and other stakeholders. The experts will then investigate and study the local groundwater and surface water conditions on and around the proposed site. They will also evaluate what effects the landfill could have and recommend ways to prevent and manage any effects.

The scientific studies will be a comprehensive review of all water systems because the groundwater and surface water interact with the Thames River and its ecosystems. Our studies will also include findings from other studies in the area including the recent drinking water source protection plans, conducted by the Upper Thames Conservation Authority. Finally, the work of our team will be carefully scrutinized by provincial government experts before the Minister of the Environment makes a decision about the approval of the site.

It's also important to note that our design engineers must follow strict regulations about groundwater and surface water protection. Ontario Regulation 232/98, under the Environmental Protection Act, contains very detailed requirements for the protection of water resources and how they must be protected for as long as necessary, which is well after the site is closed. In the Niagara Region, this led to the construction of the "double generic liner" for the South Landfill, a twin-liner design established by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, that is designed to be fully protective of surrounding groundwater resources. Any liner we propose for the Southwestern Landfill site must provide similar protection to the water resources in Zorra Township. 

How will you address potential effects to air quality?

An important study that our experts will carry out during the Environmental Assessment (EA) is on air quality. Experts will carefully measure and model air quality in the area. These models will take into account existing and future sources of emissions and then overlay the effects of the proposed landfill site to determine its implications.

Air quality standards established by the government to protect public health will be a benchmark for this assessment. Depending on the findings, experts may recommend ways to further reduce or manage potential air quality impacts, along with any monitoring plans. All of these findings will be discussed with stakeholders, thoroughly reviewed by provincial government experts and made available for public review before any approval is issued for the site.