Here we are two months into the New Year and the Edwardsburgh/Cardinal dump controversy doesn’t seem to have moved forward much since this time in 2017.

If anything, the two sides have become more entrenched, particularly the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville which appears determined to make a buck off an idle landfill location known as ED-19 despite the mood of most local ratepayers who don’t want the unnecessary facility in nearby farm country.

It’s unnecessary because the counties never pressed the site into service in the 20 years since they got provincial approval for it. Now they want to sell it to commercial interests who’ll have to import garbage to make it work financially.

Opposing forces have enjoyed some successes in pushing back, including persuading the province to temporarily suspend approval for construction or operation of a dump at 165-acre ED-19 because the original go-ahead is now an antique. When the news came, E/C Councillor Michael Barrett, who with area MPP Steve Clark and Citizens Against the Dump led the charge against the possible project, stated the community had demonstrated it isn’t for sale to “Big Garbage.”

Perhaps he had a premonition but Barrett cautioned that the battle isn’t over and that pressure must be kept on provincial and municipal politicians: “Let’s get ready for the next round.”

The heartening decision was contained in the provincial Environmental Registry. Operation of a landfill at ED-19 couldn’t be undertaken “until such time that the owner confirms that the conditions, assumptions and circumstances that were made in the EA are still applicable, and that the proposed landfill design is still appropriate.” As already mentioned, the Environmental Assessment in question was granted 20 years ago.

The next round came quickly. Rather than accept the requirement to do the right thing by re-certifying that the EA is still valid, the counties appealed the decision to suspend the original certificate in its madcap rush to sell the site as a commercial mega dump.

An appeal pre-hearing to determine ground rules and who can appear will be held before the Environmental Review Tribunal at Brockville City Hall on March 12. The full-blown hearing will come this summer; Citizens Against the Dump want formal status and deserve to be part of the process, presenting evidence and witnesses; the group has noted that it’s somewhat limited by the fact it has to fundraise to represent its 1,400 members while the counties has open access to taxpayers’ money.

Opposition to development of ED-19 began to build after residents learned that negotiations were underway to sell the site to Tomlinson Environmental of Ottawa. While talks had been dormant, counties council decided last September to reopen them.

Many E/C residents were concerned that transfer to Tomlinson could lead to opening of a mega dump, with trash drawn in from urban centres across the province. The site was set aside in 1998 to meet E/C’s and the counties’ future needs.

While he supported the plan at first, E/C Mayor Pat Sayeau turned against it after he read the mood of ratepayers and has been busy trying to sway a majority of his colleagues at the counties level.

The main bone of contention has been the fact that plans have been advancing based on a 20-year-old approval which MOECC originally ruled was still valid. Opponents insisted a reassessment was needed according to today’s standards.

Last fall, Clark grilled MOECC Minister Chris Ballard in the Legislature, challenging him to “get off the sidelines” and confirm no landfill would open at ED-19 based on a “stale-dated” permit. Clark cited compelling reasons for pulling the plug including that there have been changes in site conditions, E/C has declared itself an unwilling host, and approvals were granted on the basis of a municipal landfill for local waste, not a private operation taking in refuse from everywhere.

In addition, Clark reminded the minister the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is against a commercial dump partly because it was never consulted as required by the Constitution.

“Things like water levels and drainage can change over 20 years,” said Akwesasne Grand Chief Abram Benedict. “We’re concerned about the environmental impact.”

Should the sale and eventual commercial landfill go ahead according to a past-due approval, Clark said that outcome would be “unprecedented”. He called on Ballard to exercise his authority to scrap the “historic” approval and order a new assessment.

That’s what happened… and the plot continues to thicken!