UNLAWFUL LANDFILL ACTIVITY
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 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.