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'Leave our town alone': Dresden residents fight waste company development

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York1 Waste Solutions wants to transform an old landfill in Dresden into a recycling facility for construction materials.

Residents are strongly opposed to the idea they learned about in January.

“We are very, very protective of our community and our home,” said Bria Atkins, a Dresden resident who is part of a committee pushing back against the idea.

Across the small community of approximately 2,500 people, there are dozens of signs against the proposal— most of them rejecting an idea of a dump in the town.

“We want everybody to know what's going on and how big business is trying to come in and bully us out,” said resident Joe Galos, who lives on the edge of town and who has built two signs against the project. “It's terrible. I think sometimes, why did I move here now?”

 

The proposal

York1 purchased the 80-acre property at 29831 Irish School road, one kilometre north of town, in the fall of 2023.

The company also bought two farms to the north and south “as buffer lands,” according to George Kirchmair, vice-president environmental for York1.

As the new owners, Kirchmair said they have to ask the province for a permit amendment to put the property in their name.

A second application is before the province to expand the former landfill.

“What we plan to do in Dresden is to open a recycling facility focused on diverting construction materials away from landfill,” said Kirchmair for things like wood, plastic, drywall, bricks, and roofing shingles.

“There are recycled uses for all of those materials,” he added.

The company intends to recycle 80 per cent of the materials it processes in Dresden.

Whatever can’t be recycled will be transferred to a landfill in Michigan, unless the construction material is from Chatham-Kent.

Those residual materials can be buried in Dresden, but only if the proposal is approved.

What the company isn’t planning to do, according to Kirchmair, is build a dump.

“We have no intentions on bringing any municipal household waste or garbage to this facility,” he said. “We have no intentions on bringing any odorous garbage to this location. It'll be non-odorous construction materials. We don't plan to change that in future.”

 

The opposition

Residents tell CTV News if that’s the case, they don’t understand why York1’s proposal talks about expanding the landfill.

“It feels very strategic on York1's part and it feels like we were left in the dark on purpose, and it feels like a Toronto company is trying to bully our town,” said Atkins.

Another resident, Wendy Vercauteren, told CTV News even if there is a misunderstanding, their opposition to the development stands for several reasons.

The group fighting the proposal is worried about the impact on the environment and on municipal infrastructure.

If York1 is allowed to bring in the tonnage being requested, residents estimate it could mean an extra 150 transports through their town, per day.

“Our infrastructure cannot handle it and there's no way to that property except through the main roads of town,” said Atkins.

The company is also asking toe province to allow operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The residents worry about noise pollution.

“The 24/7 is an ask,” Kirchmair said, noting even if Ontario grants that approval, the company would be governed by Chatham-Kent’s municipal noise bylaws.

“For a recycling facility, there may be some non-noise making activities that we'd like to do after normal working hours,” he said. “All of our facilities we have, operate typically 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and that's the normal work shifts for folks.”

Residents are also worried about environmental impacts. “Molly's Creek is a naturally fed spring that runs directly through the property and flows into our Sydenham River,” said Atkins. A river she said “holds many species at risk.”

Chatham-Kent Council is also against the proposed amendments to the property.

On Monday, council voted unanimously in favour of discussing the York1 proposals, even though it was not on the agenda.

“I'm really pissed off with this,” Mayor Darrin Canniff said Monday. “They [York1] come in and we find out about it through a filing with the province.”

Kirchmair said he’s “surprised by those statements and those reactions.”

He said they have had conversations with the municipality about the proposal and that the municipal planner did tell council they attended the first public meeting, put on by York1 in January.

Kirchmair says regardless, they are willing to work with the municipality and residents on a “host community agreement” when the time comes, but he says the project is in its early stages.

“We're really looking to do something different here, the kind of recycling that they do more progressive regions like Europe. That's not really done that great here in Canada,” said Kirchmair. “None of these materials like wood should ever go to landfill.”

 

The future

Kirchmair predicts it could take anywhere from one to five years to get the proposal off the ground, based on a number of factors, including permitting, zoning and community feedback.

York1 is hosting a second community input meeting on Friday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at the arena in Dresden, which can accommodate 300 people.

York1 expects a full crowd. Atkins, Vercauteren, Galos and the other members of their committee plan to be there to speak to York1 officials.

“The message of Dresden is ‘York1, go back to Mississauga. Leave our town alone,'" said Atkins. 

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