Mount Welland dumping coming to an end

by Dave Johnson, The Welland Tribune

River Road site expected to take 8,000 tonnes more of fill over next two weeks

Walker Environmental will be finished with the former Atlas landfill site in the next two weeks.

It will cap off the east side of the large hill and seed it.

“There are about 8,000 more tonnes to come in,” Mike Deprez, vice-president of transfer and disposal for Walker Industries, told Welland politicians Tuesday night.

Deprez expected the site, dubbed Mount Welland by city residents, to be turned over to the city in the new year.

He and Walker project director Darren Fry were before council to answer council questions about the site. They made a presentation last week, but due to an issue with the audiovisual system were asked to come back.

Fry told council monitoring activities will continue at the site for years to come in compliance with a Ministry of Environment (MOE) permit. Regular site inspections will be carried out, as will ground and surface water monitoring.

Fry said it is hard to predict what the future holds for the site and told council that monitoring could eventually be reduced as baselines are set for the landfill.

“Right now, groundwater will be checked quarterly. That could be reduced to twice a year in the future,” he said, adding decisions will be made on data provided and approval by the MOE.

Last week, council heard the 15-hectare site at 685 River Rd. had been an unsecured and exposed waste dump for former Atlas Specialty Steels. There had been no environmental monitoring, no stormwater or surface water controls and no leachate collection system. That meant surface water from the site went directly into the Welland River.

Councillors were also told Welland and Niagara Region were left holding the bag for the site — an estimated $20-million liability and a brownfield not suitable for development.

Initial remediation of the site was paid for by Walker at $15 million, which included surface water containment barriers and monitoring, site security, a sheet pile wall driven into the ground beside the river to prevent any migration offsite and a leachate collection system.

Walker took over the site in 2010, a years-long approval process, and remediated it over two years to protect the local environment and water resources.

Soil from nonhazardous sources has been brought to the site — which operated on a project-by-project basis — and it generated some $6.6 million for the city.

Ward 3 Coun. John Chiocchio asked about royalties — generated through rent and tipping fees — paid to the city so far this year. He said in 2018,Welland received $735,000.

“In 2019, we’ve only received $25,000.”

Deprez said Walker didn’t plan to do much work on the site in 2019 and that’s why the number is lower.

“There were only spaces left to fill on the site and we just started filling again. The city should see a little more money,” he said.

And because the site only operated on a project-by-project basis, there was no way the company could predict what it would generate.

Chiocchio asked about a $3.2-million closure fund set aside for the site.

The funds, Deprez said, are a guarantee that if Walker were to fail, the MOE would have financial assurance the site could be taken care of.

“It’s something the city negotiated with us from the outset.”

Travers Fitzpatrick, general manager of infrastructure and development, said the city is in talks with Walker about a maintenance package to deal with the closure of the site over the next three years.

If reached, the deal would see the closure funds used to pay for it, he said. Walker has also offered to train city staff in how to care for the former landfill.

Fitzpatrick said the closure fund would never be depleted and added over time maintenance costs could decrease.

Fry said maintenance of the site would include ensuring security fencing remains in place, for now, the operation and maintenance of the leachate pumping stations, fixing the cap if there is erosion on the site and cleaning of any stormwater management ponds if needed.

Ward 4 Coun. Bryan Green asked if the funds could be used to develop a passive park on the site, something which the city, a consultant and Niagara College explored last year.

Fitzpatrick said the fund is for maintenance purposes only. He also suggested the city not get ahead of itself and wait for the three years to be finished before anything concrete is decided for the use of the site.