A matter came before city council earlier this year that revealed that the Ecco Waste private landfill is operating illegally without any municipal permit in place for the southeast portion of their land. “Since 1994, a privately owned and operated dry waste disposal facility with Provincial approval as a Class III Landfill has operated on the largest parcel. The two smaller parcels that make up the south-eastern portion of the site do not have any municipal permits in place.” That is a quote from page 6 of the “ADMINISTRATION REPORT TO CALGARY PLANNING COMMISSION 2015 JANUARY 15: LOC2013-0043”. Here is a link to it on the City of Calgary website. (Here is a link to it on our website.)
Here is a sketch from the development permit DP 1991-0217 issued by the City of Calgary for this landfill. In the first view the top of the sketch is pointing west and it doesn’t show the outline of the landfill. In the second view it has been reoriented to show north at the top of the sketch and a red border has been added showing the outline of the landfill.
Here are two Google Earth photos of the property in question: the first photo is from 2002 and clearly shows that the landfill fits within the footprint approved by the City of Calgary in DP 1991-0217 (the only development permit for this land addressing the landfill operation); and the second photo is from 2014 and just as clearly shows that the landfill now covers the southeast corner which has no municipal permit allowing for a landfill.
Roughly ten years ago the provincial government issued Approval 19045-01-00 for this landfill. The problem with Alberta Environment Approval 19045-01-00 is that it encompassed a larger footprint than had been approved in the City of Calgary DP 1991-0217; besides that, it allows the landfill to reach an elevation more than 20 m higher than had been approved in the City of Calgary DP 1991-0217. The Municipal Government Act establishes that it is the City of Calgary, and not the province, that has the authority to issue a development permit allowing landfill activity in this jurisdiction, and the enumeration of provincial bodies in Section 619 of that act whose permitting processes prevail over municipal authority does not include any bodies that govern landfills. This means that Approval 19045-01-00 (along with the current Approval 19045-01-04) is valid only to the extent that it covers what has been approved in the City of Calgary DP 1991-0217. If the Ecco Waste private landfill were to claim that their landfill activity on the southeast corner and at an elevation above what has been approved by the City of Calgary is in compliance with the law based on Alberta Environment Approval 19045-01-00 (along with the current Approval 19045-01-04), they would be wrong. They do not get to pick between being in compliance with either provincial legal requirements or municipal legal requirements. They have to comply with both.
Here are two photos of the Ecco Waste private landfill. The first one shows how it actually looks today. It was taken August 27, 2015. The second one is photoshopped to show how it would look if the landfill activity had had been restricted to what was approved in the City of Calgary DP 1991-0217. That is a lot of unpermitted landfill!
Current View August 27, 2015
Photoshopped View showing how this landfill would look if it was in compliance with its municipal permit
The provincial government needs to rescind Approval 19045-01-00 (along with the current Approval 19045-01-04) immediately or suspend it unless and until Ecco Waste secures the necessary municipal permit both for a landfill on the southeast portion of the land in question and for a landfill reaching the elevation that has been attained already. There is no other appropriate course of action. To look the other way in the hope that this issue disappears would be a complete abdication of responsibility. To allow landfill operations to continue on land that has no municipal permit for a landfill while the municipal permit application is under way would be unjust in that it would show complete disregard for the municipal permitting process and in particular the public notice and public input element of that process.
Another interesting element of the LOC2013-0043 report is point 2 of the Executive Summary on page 1. It gives the following as one of the goals of the proposal that is detailed in the report: “Allow for potential expansion of a Dry Waste Disposal and Treatment Facility and/or Materials Recovery Facility uses on the two smaller parcels located in the southeast portion of the site.” What is striking here is the word choice: ‘allow for the potential expansion...’ It seems to imply that there is no existing landfill use on those two parcels in the southeast portion of the site, but that this is something that may occur in the future. A far more accurate statement would have been along the lines of: “Sanction the existing unlawful Dry Waste Disposal and Treatment Facility and/or Materials Recovery Facility uses on the two smaller parcels located in the southeast portion of the site.” The author of the report further elucidates this assertion on page 7 with: “To allow for an expansion of the existing Dry Waste Disposal Facility use (now proposed Dry Waste Disposal and Treatment Facility use) to be considered on the site’s two smaller south-eastern parcels via a development permit and Provincial approvals process.” Once more, the hypothetical tone (i.e. ‘to be considered’) is striking, as is the reference to due process as if due process were being followed here. It is clear that the author made no site visit and relied wholly on the information provided by the applicant. This is regrettable, yet at the same time understandable considering that the planning department has limited resources. But now that the truth has come out, something must be done about this unlawful landfill use on these two parcels.
The City of Calgary needs to issue an order directing Ecco Waste immediately to suspend all landfill activity unless and until they secure the necessary municipal permit for a landfill on the southeast portion of the land as well as for landfill on the rest of the land to an elevation at or above that already attained there. There is no other appropriate course of action. There must be no less than an immediate suspension of all landfill activity that is outside of what was permitted in DP 1991-0217 so as to allow the permitting process to proceed in accordance with the law and in particular the public notice and public input element of that process.
One could easily argue – and in fact it would be hard not to argue – that the Ecco Waste private landfill should be closed immediately and permanently, and any portion of the landfill that is beyond what was authorized in their development permit should be removed and the land rehabilitated. But even if the city ultimately does give this landfill the necessary development permit authorizing what is currently being done illegally, the process form this point forward must follow the law. It is appalling to think that anyone could ride roughshod over the law like this and then, once the truth comes out and their unlawful activity is exposed, expect the city to accept this activity as a fait accompli.
There is one other thing that should concern all nearby residents and businesses. In its annual report to the provincial government (here is a link
to the full report) the Ecco Waste private landfill states that it wants to expand. Not only does it want to re-open the closed Ogden Landfill adjacent to it on the north and integrate it into its own landfill, but it also wants to go even higher on its own landfill than it has already reached. Here is the text of these expansion plans:
“PROPOSED EXPANSION PLANS:
A proposal has been made to the City of Calgary to acquire the closed Ogden Landfill, with a view to mining the area to recover buried resources (concrete and asphalt) and to create a lined landfill on that site, as reported in 2008.
The proposal remains under consideration by the City. Should they be agreeable, ECCO proposes to undertake sufficient exploration and engineering to quantify the values and the details of landfill expansion involved. If the effort proves to be economically viable, ECCO will prepare an application for expansion and integration of the two landfills for review by ESRD. Otherwise, a small vertical expansion proposal is contemplated for the existing site, as noted above, but the formal application has not been submitted.”
After reading all this, yhou may be wondering to yourself, “What can I do?” You are just one individual and this is a big corporation making piles of money out of their illegal activity. Alone, you probably can’t do much. But if enough of us raise our voices then we will be heard. Here are the people to contact with an explanation of why it is useful to contact them:
Kevin Watson, Development Inspector City of Calgary Inspections & Permit Services
Mr. Watson is the city inspector responsible for this specific address. He is on the front line of determining when a business is in violation of their development permit. It is very important that he hear directly from you the concerns you may have about this landfill operating illegally.
Terry Holt, Senior Development Inspector City of Calgary Inspections & Permit Services
Mr. Holt is the senior inspector responsible for this part of the city. Kevin Watson reports to him. His approval is likely needed when an inspector in his part of the city wants to issue a stop work order to a business that is in violation of their development permit. It is very important that he hear directly from you the concerns you may have about this landfill operating illegally.
Gordon Yorke, Chief Development Inspector City of Calgary Inspections & Permit Services
Mr. Yorke is the chief inspector responsible for the entire city. Terry Holt reports to him. Mr. Yorke has gone on record stating to the CBC that, "We're aware that the activity is going on and I don't think there is a risk to allowing that to continue." It is mind-boggling to think that a high official in our city could make such a statement about a private landfill that is now more than 20 metres over its approved height and has deposited at least 100,000 tonnes of waste on land that has no municipal permit whatsoever for this use. It is very important that he hear directly from you if you disagree with this statement of his.
Kevin Griffiths, Director City of Calgary Inspections & Permit Services
Mr. Griffiths is ultimately responsible for inspections for the entire city. Gordon Yorke reports to him. When an inspector fails to issue a stop work order to a business that is in violation of their development permit, he has the authority and responsibility to direct that inspector to issue the order. It is very important that he hear directly from you the concerns you may have about this landfill operating illegally.
Wallace Leung, Senior Planning Technician City of Calgary Inspections & Permit Services
Mr. Leung is in the city planning department. He has the file for the development permit application in which Ecco Waste is attempting to expand their landfill. He is responsible to provide you with information as to this application and its ongoing status. It is very important that he hear directly from you the concerns you may have about an application for a landfill expansion that has already occurred illegally. You can also register with him as an objector so as to stay in the loop.
Aster Wang, Industrial Approvals Engineer – South Saskatchewan Region
Ms. Wang works for the provincial environment ministry. She has the file for this landfill. There is currently an undisclosed application that has been submitted to her for some sort of extension and/or expansion of the provincial approval for this landfill. Although the municipal requirements for this landfill are outside her jurisdiction, it is within her power to recommend that the approval for this landfill be suspended on account of it being in violation of its municipal permit. It is very important that she hear directly from you the concerns you may have about a landfill that is operating illegally. You can also register with her to be notified if the application she currently has makes it to the stage of public hearings (which is important because the notice period is apparently only one day and therefore very easy to miss).
Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips
Ms. Phillips is ultimately responsible for all landfills in the province. Although the municipal requirements for this landfill are outside her jurisdiction, it is well within her authority to suspend the approval for this landfill on account of it being in violation of its municipal permit. It is very important that she hear directly from you the concerns you may have about a landfill that is operating illegally.
Here are some other key office-holders, any of whom could have a significant impact if they understood the enormity of the situation. Please contact as many of them as your time allows. The more they hear from us, the more likely we are to get through to them.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi
Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra [Note: Mr. Carra received a donation from Ecco in 2013.]
Councillor Shane Keating [Note: Mr. Keating received a donation from Ecco in 2013.]
MLA Brandy Payne Calgary-Acadia
MLA David Swan Calgary-Mountain View [Leader of the Alberta Liberal Party]
MLA Greg Clark Calgary-Elbow [Leader of the Alberta Party]
MLA Ric McIver Calgary-Hays