Media release - Durham Incinerator Environmental Assessment Review Not On Time or Budget

Attn: News Editors

Thu Jan 14 2010


Durham Region — The environmental assessment study for Durham Region's waste incinerator project is not "on time and budget" as was previously stated by Durham Works Commissioner Cliff Curtis, say Durham residents watching the project. Residents are also alarmed that Durham Region councillors on the Works committee appear unconcerned about the possibility that the environmental assessment review will be flawed and, if the incinerator were approved, that human health and the environment could be impacted.

At the Wednesday January 13 Works committee, Clarington resident Linda Gasser was stonewalled when she described project delays and the project team's requests for extensions and the piecemeal release of amended EA study documents and addendums that were released through to the end of December. The environmental assessment study was submitted to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment July 31, 2009. With the EA process driving EA study costs, she wondered how much in additional consultant fees were incurred to correct the initial reports and meet tight deadlines.

"Not only did Works Commissioner Curtis refuse to include our letters on yesterday's Works committee agenda, though we emailed our letter directly to councillors, not a single Works councillor responded to the many concerns raised", says Gasser. "There were no questions to either myself or the commissioner."

Several Durham residents have presented their concerns to Durham's standing committees and to council over the last two months.

Ironically, during Wednesday's meeting, councillors devoted quite a bit of time to reschedule an upcoming meeting to avoid absences during the school March break. Councillor Rick Johnson, a long time advocate for incineration, appeared concerned about the public perception of councillors missing meetings during an election year and wanted it rescheduled.

"Works committee found the time to discuss rescheduling meetings to accomodate Councillor Johnson but avoided discussing the incinerator EA, or the seemingly arbitrary inclusion or exclusion of official correspondence to this committee", says Clarington resident Kerry Meydam who attended the meeting. "There was not one response to Ms. Gasser's concerns. Not one minute was spent on the EA even though there was a delegation with very legitimate questions and concerns. All questions raised by the delegation were ignored completely by the committee."

"I am baffled that the very committee that is charged with overseeing the largest capital project in the history of Durham Region appears content to ignore important information", adds Ms. Gasser. "Beyond simple attendance the public also expects that councillors do their jobs and respond to documented concerns".

Though two letters from citizens documenting concerns about the incinerator project were not included on the Works agenda, it's been confirmed that these will be handed out today at the Health and Social Services meeting and will be included on the Finance and Administration committee agenda.

The environmental assessment study documents were originally submitted to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and underwent an initial comment period ending September 25. To address the hundreds of comments and submissions by citizens and government reviewers which identified errors, omissions and inconsistencies, the project team requested and was granted three separate extensions. The consultants released an amended EA study on November 27, then an addendum on December 10 along with technical memos and revised studies. The piecemeal release of documents makes it nearly impossible for reviewers to get a complete picture of the project and potential impacts, residents say.

Ms. Meydam is concerned that stakeholders are not being notified when new documents are published. "This EA is being done in a very piecemeal fashion without official notification to all stakeholders", she says. "Are we supposed to check the proponent's website daily to be sure there are not new amendments to previously submitted EA documents or to find out whether timelines and deadlines have once again been changed? I received official notification of the Nov 27 addendum but to date I have still received no official notification of the Dec. 10 amended appendices. "

The capital cost of the proposed incinerator is currently estimated at $272 million. In a memo dated November 20th, 2009, the Works Commissioner indicated the total approved budget at that time for the EA study was $13,422,000.


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