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Northern communities bank on waste industry.

Northern communities bank on waste industry

Several Northern Ontario communities are attempting to break the economic hold of resource-based industries by attracting industries based on a more plentiful commodity - waste.

Plans for storage sites in Geraldton, Hornepayne and Elk Lake for low-level radioactive material from the Port Hope area are under consideration, while Kirkland Lake, Kapuskasing and Ignace are proposing facilities to process and dispose of solid waste from the Toronto area and a medical waste facility is being planned for Carling Township near Parry Sound.

Officials of these communities are overlooking the inherent stigma of waste in an attempt to take advantage of the emergence of waste management and disposal as a growth industry.

"Cleaning up the Great Lakes will take $100 billion and cleaning up leaky dumps will cost $40 billion," said Don Chant, president and chairman of the Ontario Waste Management Corporation. "There are many new opportunities in pollution abatement, waste disposal and waste monitoring for people ready and willing to take advantage of them."

The co-founder of Pollution Probe, an environmental organization which works with business to solve the environmental problems facing Canada, addressed the Sudbury and District Chamber of Commerce early last month in an effort to inform businessmen of the abundance of business opportunities in the environmental sector.

He said the opportunity to dispose of southern Ontario waste, primarily solid waste, is the result of prevailing moods in the province's southern climes.

"There are two attitudes invoived and neither of them is very good," Chant said. "The first is that everyone wants someone else to solve their problems and the second is that Northern Ontario sees an economic opportunity to take the waste."

Most of the sites have been proposed for municipalities which have been dealth severe economic blows, whether by global market conditions for resource commodities or by corporate decisions made by major employers.

17-YEAR RECESSION

"The town has been in a recession for 17 years, ever since the (Bear Island) land caution," said Delores Benn of Elk Lake. "It comes to a point where something will have to be done."

Benn, who is chairman of the Citizen's Liaison Group (CLG) examining the federal government's proposal for locating a low-level radioactive site in the area, said the caution - which halted local mining exploration activity - as well as other economic hardships have all but killed the community.

"In 1909 Elk Lake's population was between 1,500 and 2,000. Now there are only about 500," she noted.

Atomic Energy of Canada (AEC) has spent several months scouting locations for a specially designed permanent storage site. More than 800 communities in the province were initially contacted by the federal agency about a year ago. Only seven towns remain in the siting process.

COMPENSATIONS

Laura Evans, a public relations consultant with the federal agency, said the price tag for the storage site - which could encompass approximately 80 hectares of land - ranges from $68 million for a shallow burial site, to $130 million for a cavern-type facility, to $170 million for a concrete warehouse.

Elk Lake town council is expected to decide later this month whether to proceed to the fourth step of the site-selection process - which involves conducting geological surveys to determine the feasibility of a number of potential sites - or to follow Red Lake and Elliot Lake and opt out of the process.

Last month Elliot Lake council pulled out of the process after the siting committee gave a cool response to a proposal to utilize Rio Algom Ltd.'s Panel Mine mill to extract uranium from the waste. The estimated value of the extracted material is $6 million.

Evans said since the municipality has opted out, the proposal won't be considered "unless Rio Algom comes to us with another proposal."

SITE SELECTION

While Elk Lake officials consider whether or not to enter the next phase of the site-selection process, Hornepayne is already immersed in the procedure.

Like Elk Lake, the community has seen its economy devastated by the cut-backs of a single employer.

"As little as three years ago, CN (Canadian National) employed 600 people in the town. Now it's down to about 300," said town clerk Jim McGee.

The town clerk said there are few options left open to the community.

"We had a diversification study done and there's not a heck of a lot we can look for," he said. "There is lumber, but that industry is in a downturn right now."

While the storage site can provide a handful of jobs, anywhere from one to five positions depending on the technology utilized at the specific site, the federal government does offer compensation packages to communities which accept the waste.

An official with the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) in Ottawa said the federal government is aware that there is a trade-off when communities agree to locate a site within their jurisdictions.

"The underlying principle of the entire process is that communities which accept the waste should be better off because of it," said Paul Conlon, a spokesman for the regulatory arm of the control board. "It's waste and there's no redeeming benefit to it."

Compensation packages, which are negotiated as part of the fourth phase, can include any of a number of items.

Benn said the Elk Lake citizen's group has made several recommendations concerning what the package should contain.

Benn said the group recommended local companies and workmen be utilized for the construction and as employees once the site is in operation.

Close to half the town's residents could be employed during the construction phase of the project. By Evan's estimation between 120 and 200 workers could be employed, depending on the type of facility chosen.

The Elk Lake group also recommended preferential financing for workers who have to relocate to Elk Lake, a public sewer and water system and a site designed to be a model facility so that officials from other countries contemplating such a facility will be able to study it.

Even if the the community does not receive a storage site, the process itself can provide a financial band-aid.

McGee said the process can take up to three years and inject close to $3 million into the local economy.

Benn agreed that, even if a site is rejected by residents, just going through the process will help the town as it tries to revitalize its economy.

"It's giving us needed exposure, so at least the government knows where we are," she said.

SOLID WASTE

Toronto's solid waste is being treated like a mountain of gold ready for claim staking by three Northern Ontario communities.

Notre Development Corporation of North Bay has proposed a multi-million dollar recycling/landfill facility at the Adam's Mine near Kirkland Lake. Officials from Stinnes Ennerco and the town of Kapuskasing are proposing and energy-from-waste project for that community and which will process up to 6,000 tons of Toronto waste brought in daily by Canadian Pacific Railway.

Unlike the two other proposals, Ignace wants to handle 100-per-cent of the city's non-recycled waste. Local officials are counting on the processing plant, which could employ between 400 and 500 people, to mitigate the impact of the cut-backs at the Mattabi and Lyon Lake mines.

Reeve Andre Tardiff said the proposal could be Ignace's last economic hope.

"What else is there?" he asked. "We have no other choice."

Tardiff credits local officials' efforts to keep residents informed about the proposal as the main reason there have been few objections. He is confident Ignace's proposal will be approved.

"(It's so close) I can taste it, but I can't eat it yet," he joked.

Equally confident is Notre Development president Gordon McGuinty.

Notre has proposed using the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission's rail system to transport one million tons of solid waste annually from Metro Toronto to the Adams Mine site.

The proposal has been placed on a contingency site list by Metro Toronto officials.

McGuinty said the railway has made a presentation to members of the Solid Waste Interim Steering Committee (SWISC) - who are charged with making the site selection.

"A personal concern has been the cost of transportation," he said in a recent interview. "But the preliminary numbers (from ONTC) have been good."

According to McGuinty, the estimated cost of the facility is $21 million, which includes the cost of renovating the site's infrastructure, constructing a water treatment plant and a rail unloading facility. Construction of a recycling facility is estimated at between $30 million and $90 million, a methane gas recovery plant is estimated at $20 million and a greenhouse is estimated at $3 million.

Unlike the other proposals, Notre's plan includes substantial spin-offs to other areas of the local economy.

The plans include a $250,000 annual constribution to Northern College and the Haileybury School of Mines to fund research and development work and a $1 million annual commitment to a local economic development fund.

In addition to the influx of capital, the project would create up to 150 jobs, according to Notre.

If Notre's proposal is approved, the site will be utilized for approximately 25 years, although McGuinty said the lifespan could be longer, depending on the amount of materials which can be recycled.

McGuinty said he expects a preliminary environmental assessment to begin in the near future. He added that the site will be studied to see if the pit is impermeable enough for the project's needs. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

If the site does gain the Toronto steering committee's approval, McGuinty said the preliminary costs and fees will total between $6 million and $8 million.

Stating that the waste management industry is "still in its infancy," McGuinty said the key to its growth is with the provincial government.

The Ministry of the Environment has set down regulations calling for 25 per cent of Metro Toronto's solid waste to be recycled by 1992 and 50 per cent by the year 2000.

"The key thing is that the provincial government has taken the lead in Canada and as long as they stick to it, then there's a lot of potential," he said.

HIGH STAKES

For the Kirkland Lake area, the proposal could provide an estimated $400 million over the facility's expected 25-year life-span.

The stakes are equally high in Kapuskasing. Local officials and Stinnes Ennerco have proposed to construct an energy-from-waste plant. The proposal is being reviewed by the steering committee.

The plant would be operated by Stinnes, and revenue would be gained through dumping fees and electricity sales.

Chant said that "burning is not a bad solution." However, he added that there must be stringent environmental safeguards in place and it requires a great deal of political will.

According to a report prepared by Kapuskasing economic development officer Pierre Millette, such a plant would provide about 100 jobs and an annual payroll of $3.5 million to $4 million. The report also notes that approximately 160 spin-off jobs could be created in other sectors by the plant, which will burn 2,200 tons of garbage at full capacity.

The construction of the plant would take about three years and could carry a price tag of almost $300 million. It's estimated construction could employ between 500 and 1,000 workers with payroll topping $15 million.

"The project would provide diversification from our single-industry dependence on the forest industry and add an increase in social, economic and environmental security," Millette stated.

In addition to the influx of capital, the plant would save the municipality $100,000 in local waste disposal costs and add 55 megawatts annually to Ontario Hydro's supply grid.

The project would also benefit other industries in the Kapuskasing area by reducing rail costs.

The reduced costs could assist in the development of silicon sands in Mattice and the lumber industry in Smooth Rock Falls.

The report also concluded the waste-to-energy plant would help stem the flow of young people from the area through the presence of employment opportunities.

MEDICAL WASTE

While far from being a one-industry town, Parry Sound is the subject of a proposal for a medical waste incinerator.

Under the proposal made by Med Track Waste Management Inc., the $500,000 facility in the Parry Sound Industrial Park and would create about 20 jobs with an estimated annual payroll of about $700,000.

Andrew Dumyn, Ontario regional manager for Med Track, said the facility would process approximately 9.6 tons of medical waste per day and operate 300 days per year.

Dumyn is quick to point out that the waste will only come from hospitals in Northern Ontario which, he said, will reduce disposal costs for the facilities.

"Currently, the waste is being sent out of the province to the States or Quebec," he said.

In addition to the capital produced by the payroll and the construction work, Dumyn said the facility would purchase supplies and services from local businesses, as well as provide information for the Ministry of the Environment's data base through the constant environmental testing which would go on at the site.

The facility would also provide a constant flow of revenue for the Parry Sound area.

Dumyn said the incinerator, the first to be built by Med Track, would be a "model facility.

"It will be provided with the most sophisticated technology."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Krejlgaard, Chris
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Words:2216
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