Regional Chairman Joyce Savoline has a message-- Halton isn't eyeing Toronto's garbage. While an article published in the Toronto Star yesterday (Thursday) says just that, the head of regional council said it's "simply untrue." The story discusses the Region's plans to build a facility at the landfill site on Regional Road 25 in Milton that would convert waste into energy, which is a concept Savoline publicized at a press conference earlier this month. And while Halton is now weighing its options for the plant, with one option potentially being to make it large enough to take waste from other regions, Savoline emphasized the Region hasn't talked to any municipalities about this yet or made any final decisions when it comes to the facility. "Nothing has been determined, other than that there will be a facility for Halton. We're not at a point where we're ready to discuss more garbage (coming from outside Halton)," she said. "We are doing our due diligence and developing a business case to understand our options. Then, we will make the decision on what's best for Halton." She also pointed out that Toronto has never intended to use energy from waste (EFW) technologies. Currently, Michigan legislators are working to close the state's border to trash shipments from Toronto and other GTA municipalities. Although the Region acknowledges the minister of the environment can direct waste from other municipalities to Halton's landfill in a time of crisis, regional council has long been firm that it doesn't want to be put in that position. Savoline said if waste was to come to the EFW facility from other municipalities, the Region would insist that it arrive by train in order to take trucks off the road. "We are trying to clean up the environment," she pointed out. And while there are no estimates at this point as to how many extra trains that could bring into Halton, Savoline noted the rail traffic "is already there now."
She explained the business case being prepared, which will be presented to regional council next spring, will include preliminary environmental, health, air quality, transportation and financial assessments necessary for a public consultation process and council's ultimate decision. The EFW facility will help lengthen the life of Halton's landfill-- which is expected to reach capacity by 2030-- by up to two decades and could cost anywhere from $300 to $800 million, depending on the size. It could be up and running by 2010. The plant is described by the Region as an electrical power generation plant that converts the heat energy in solid waste material into renewable energy using advanced thermal technologies. The thermal methods could range from high-tech incineration to gasification, plasma arc or thermal cracking technologies, which are nonburn methods. It's not known at this point which technology the Region would adopt. And while there would be emissions from the plant, Halton staff has said they'd be well within the Province's guidelines and that the most modern pollution control equipment would be used. The Region recently received confirmation from Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten that it has been approved under the Environmental Assessment Act to create such a facility whenever the municipality determines one is needed to manage Halton's waste. Savoline emphasized this approval sets the Region apart from other municipalities that would also like to build EFW facilities, but haven't received the go-ahead. Halton Hills resident Leslie Adams, president of Protect Our Water and Environmental Reources (POWER), said the group has not yet taken a position on EFW facilities. But as an environmentalist, she does have some personal views on the issue. "It is something for me that would probably be okay in the mix," said Adams. "It's the whole idea if it becomes a revenue generating stream for the region. Are they going to still address ratcheting down waste (increasing) recycling and reuse-- making sure things aren't going into the landfill or going into incineration," said Adams. She stressed we should be "looking at reduction (of waste) as opposed to burning it." Consultation with the public on the EFW initiative is already getting underway. Residents can send their comments or information requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 905-8256000, ext. 7920. For more information visit www.halton.ca.