Casework: The Richmond Landfill Saga - Addressing the Impacts of a "Legacy" Landfill

For over two decades, CELA has acted on behalf of the Concerned Citizens’ Committee of Tyendinaga and Environs (CCCTE) in the courts and before administrative tribunals in complex and precedent-setting matters under the Environmental Assessment Act, Environmental Protection Act, Environmental Bill of Rights, and Planning Act.

In particular, CELA has represented the CCCTE in relation to an existing waste disposal site (Richmond Landfill) that was first established in the 1950s in southeastern Ontario. The CCCTE has also retained CELA with respect to the proposed construction of a new waste disposal site (Beechwood Road Environmental Centre) on nearby lands owned by the same proponent that operates the Richmond Landfill.

Given the sensitive hydrogeological setting (e.g. thin soils, fractured bedrock, etc.) of the local area, CCCTE members are primarily concerned about leachate contamination of groundwater and surface water resources. This is because there is no municipal water supply in the rural community, and residents are dependent on private wells for drinking water and livestock watering purposes. The CCCTE has worked on these and other issues in cooperation with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ), whose territory is located downstream of the existing landfill.

At present, the CCCTE, among other things, is responding to the proponent’s attempts to delineate the extent of the off-site leachate plume on adjoining properties in order to establish a Contaminant Attenuation Zone. In the meantime, the environmental assessment process for the new landfill proposal appears to be indefinitely stalled in light of the proponent’s efforts to address the impacts of the existing “legacy” landfill.

Legal Submissions, Decisions

Since 1999, the CCCTE’s ongoing efforts have reached some successful milestones. In 2006, for example, Ontario’s Environment Minister refused to approve the proposed expansion of the Richmond Landfill due to outstanding environmental concerns raised by the CCCTE, MBQ, and other public and agency commenters. In 2011, the Richmond Landfill was finally closed and capped, although its contaminating lifespan will continue for an unknown period of time.

In 2012, on behalf of the CCCTE, CELA appealed inadequate license conditions proposed by the Ministry in relation to environmental monitoring, reporting, and contingency plans for the closed Richmond Landfill. In 2015, the Environmental Review Tribunal released a lengthy decision which: (i) allowed the CCCTE’s appeal; (ii) found that landfill leachate had moved off-site and contaminated nearby private wells; and (iii) ordered various improvements regarding environmental monitoring and contingency measures.