With only eight years remaining in the life of Walker Industries’ major landfill overlooking Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Glendale community, the company has started planning to develop the next phase of the dump.
Located on top of the Niagara Escarpment, what’s known as the south landfill has been in operation for more than 15 years.
But it is reaching full capacity and must be phased out.
The proposed south landfill’s phase 2 is east of the existing landfill, across Taylor Road and south of Mountain Road.
It is now a working limestone quarry for Walker’s aggregate operations which will close once the proposed new landfill is approved by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
An initial open house will be held Dec. 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Club Italia on Montrose Road in Niagara Falls.
Walker’s 2,000-acre sprawling Niagara campus on top of the Niagara Escarpment initially started as a small limestone quarry and aggregate operation more than 136 years ago.
Today, it is home to a multi-faceted waste collection and recovery operation where materials like wood waste, railway ties, asphalt shingles and clean soils are recycled to produce new products. It handles about 75 per cent of Niagara’s garbage.
Walker is also a leader in modern composting where municipal green bin organics are converted into quality compost products.
The Niagara campus is home to a biosolid organic waste facility where organic waste is processed to recycle nutrients for agricultural production.
The facility also receives the region’s blue and grey bin materials. What cannot be recycled, reused or composted is sent to the landfill.
Methane gas is a natural product of the decomposition of any organic materials in any dump. For the last 15 years, Walker has collected this gas through a series of wells and pipes and that methane can be used to generate renewable energy.
The company now has the largest renewable natural gas from landfill gas facility in Ontario. When commissioned near the end of 2023, the facility will produce enough energy to heat more than 8,700 homes annually through Enbridge Gas’ distribution system, Walker says.
It has been managing landfill gas projects for over 20 years. And because it is being extracted from landfill, the natural gas produced is a renewable resource.
That landfill gas is now being supplied to the neighbouring General Motors propulsion plant in St. Catharines, which will help the automaker reduce its carbon footprint by approximately 70 per cent, making it one of GM’s cleanest propulsion plants.
Before Walker Industries can open its proposed new landfill, a rigorous environment assessment needs to be done. That could take up to eight years.
Despite recycling and green bin composting efforts, there is still a need for landfill space for non-recyclable materials.
Darren Fry, the project director overseeing the development of the phase 2 landfill, said, “Ontario has some of the strictest ground water protection laws in Canada or even in North America for that matter.”
In designing the new facility, “We will look at how to protect water. We will study air quality. We will look at traffic. We will look at ecology. We’ll look at visual impacts,” he said.
“There are about 14 studies we will be undertaking as part of the environmental assessment,” Fry said.
Once the environmental assessment is approved by the province, the new landfill can be designed. It is not as simple as starting to dispose of waste into a hole in the ground or, for this site, the abandoned quarry.
Modern landfills are designed to ensure groundwater and the environment are protected and safe.
The company says it will use a state-of-the-art, 12-foot-thick liner system, to make sure waste in the landfill is contained. The liner is made up of many layers, each playing a role in protecting the environment.
Walker says it will conduct extensive consultation with the public, agencies like the conservation authority, Indigenous communities and others.
The first open house on Dec. 14 will be used to introduce the project, review, and discuss the environmental assessment process and gather feedback. More open houses are planned.
Steve Hardaker has lived in Glendale for over 13 years and is active in many community organizations.