Seeking the authority to manage waste

Communities creatively repurpose closed landfill sites

By Kaitlynn Anderson
Staff Writer

Once rural landfills reach their capacities, communities can collaborate to repurpose these sites.

“Some places have successfully used landfills to create new local features, like parks,” Dr. Dianne Saxe, the environmental commissioner of Ontario, told Better Farming.

Walker Environmental, a family-owned waste management company, found another creative way to repurpose its landfill in the Regional Municipality of Niagara.

During community consultations, residents asked the company if the site could be returned to agricultural use.

“At the time, we didn’t know the answer,” said Darren Fry, a project director with Walker Environmental. “So, we committed to working with the University of Guelph to do a four-year study to find out.”

The research revealed that “crops could be safely and economically grown on top of the landfill cap, which consisted of about 1 metre (3.28 feet) of low permeable clay and 150 millimetres (6 inches) of topsoil,” he said.

By using soil amendments from its adjacent composting and fertilizer site, the company improved the quality of the topsoil. Now, local farmers who work the fields on this former landfill tend to see higher crop yields on this property than on neighbouring farms, he added.

rural landfills
    Walker Environmental photo

Once companies and municipalities close landfills, staff may closely monitor the sites.

In Wellington County, for example, solid waste services staff inspect each of the region’s 16 closed landfills on a quarterly basis, the county’s website states.

These employees examine the sites for such problems as erosion and water ponding. The staff also monitor the health of vegetation and schedule any required maintenance, such as land regrading.

As of Sept. 14, Ontario had 1,525 closed small landfills. These sites can hold up to 40,000 cubic metres (1.4 million cubic feet) of waste, the provincial government’s website states.

The distribution of these landfills varies across the province. For example, the regions of Algoma (69), Parry Sound (53), Hastings (49) and Frontenac (35) have more closed sites than Kingston (4), Toronto (9), Halton (13), or Hamilton (14).

Municipalities and private companies also operate 32 large landfills in Ontario. BF

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