July 24, 2006

Quebec environment sector presents proposal for long-term waste handling

Quebec's Council of Environmental Services Enterprises (CESE) has developed a plan for final disposal of residual materials over the 20-year period between 2010 and 2030. The industry group recently presented its proposal to the metropolitan Montreal council, whose members include councillors from the Montreal municipal community (MMC), representatives from neighbouring regional municipalities and presidents of regional environmental councils.

The CESE notes that even after the objectives of the Quebec policy for management of residual materials for the 1998-2008 period have been achieved, there will still remain some three million tonnes of residual materials, generated throughout the MMC, which will require final disposal each year. Currently, these materials are disposed of at five sites in the area surrounding the MMC: Lachenaie, Lachute, St-Nicéphore, Sainte-Sophie and Saint-Thomas.

A study by the consulting firm Gaia Environment, presented by the CESE, estimates that the MMC's disposal requirements will reach approximately 58 million tonnes between 2010 and 2030, assuming that the policy objectives will, in fact, have been met. The study confirms that the required physical disposal space is available to meet the MMC's long-term needs. The CESE says these 58 million tonnes also offer the potential for conversion to a secure source of energy, providing 80 megawatts over the period, enough to meet the needs of 50,000 households.

The permitting for these capacities should be easy, as four of the five sites have been found by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks to conform to its standards (a decision is still pending on the fifth), and have been judged acceptable by the regional municipalities involved. The lifespans of these sites are limited only by administrative decisions, says the CESE.

It is, in fact, the province that limits, through its certificates of approval, the lifespan for operation of engineered landfills and compels their operators to go through the renewal procedure even though that causes substantial delays, says the CESE report.

Consequently, the CESE is recommending that the provincial government lengthen its approval terms for these facilities from the current maximum five-year term to 20 years. This, says the group, would end the existing atmosphere of uncertainty and would provide the longer amortization period needed for energy-from-waste developments. It would thus favour long-term investment in green energy generation, through partnerships among the regional municipalities involved. It would also promote achievement of the "3RVE" waste management objectives, i.e. reduction, re-use, recycling, plus reclamation and elimination, at the best possible cost.

Pierre Lachance, general manager of the CESE, said the conversion of waste to a source or energy is gaining widespread social acceptance as a disposal method. He cited a survey done for the CESE in May 2005 by Léger-Marketing which found that NIMBY, the "not in my back yard" syndrome is still alive and well in Quebec, with only 23% of residents indicating that they would welcome a landfill project near them. The level of acceptance rose to 73% however, when residents were asked the same question but were given additional assurance that such a facility would incorporate the best available environmental protection technology and would generate energy for the community.

The CESE document may be viewed (in French) on the group's Web site, www.cese.ca, in the section "Autres documents" (other documents). More information is also available from Pierre Lachance at the CESE, 514/523-8222, E-mail plachance@cese.ca.

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