February 19, 2007

Marathon seeks declaration order to establish new landfill

The northern Ontario town of Marathon has asked the Ministry of Environment to issue a declaration order allowing a new regional landfill to be established at the Dead Horse Creek site west of the town 26 kilometres north of Highway 17. If granted, the order would exempt the site from the requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act. A regulatory proposal for the declaration order has been posted for comment on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry.

Marathon's waste disposal situation has become urgent, as its existing landfill is approaching its design capacity and is already posing potential environmental impacts and actual risks to public health and safety, including noise, odours and scavenging bears near a local elementary school.

The town has been working on a long-term waste management strategy for 17 years and has still not arrived at an acceptable solution. An environmental assessment (EA) completed in 1997 named a preferred site for east of the town for a new landfill, but this was opposed by the Pic River First Nation and the project was not approved.

Efforts since then to find a new proposed site acceptable to all affected interests led to the selection of the Dead Horse Creek site. Although the selection of this site was not done through a formal EA, it was the result of a parallel process that was open to the public (including the Pic River First Nation), considered alternative sites and fully evaluated potential environmental, economic and social impacts. In requesting the declaration order, the town has submitted a detailed description of the site selection process and a rationale for its request.

If the declaration order is granted, the landfill proposal will still be subject to a technical review and approval under the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act. Conditions incorporated into the proposed declaration order and approvals under the two acts would include measures to mitigate and/or minimize any potential negative environmental effects associated with the landfill development and operation, and would outline further opportunities for public and Aboriginal community involvement.

Comments on the regulatory proposal are due by March 22, 2007. The proposal may be viewed on-line at www.ene.gov.on.ca/envregistry/029344er.htm.

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