The Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) held a community meeting on Saturday to discuss the garbage crisis at the landfill site located on 4th Line. The meeting started off with a discussion of the garbage situation and a history of landfill on Six Nations but quickly turned into a discussion on why community members feel that SNEC has not done the proper research on John Kearns’ disintegration system which they feel has the potential to cause illnesses to many people down the road.
Senior Administrative Officer, Dayle Bomberry gave a brief history of the landfill site. “Originally the landfill site was on 3rd Line and in 1986 it was moved to the current location on 4th Line,” stated Bomberry. “The site on 4th Line was supposed to last for 40 years but it only lasted half its life span. In 20 years it was full,” stated Bomberry.
The community meeting was a result of an incident that occurred over a week ago when over 50 residents of Six Nations, concerned with the health and well being of the community and the environment, gathered at the Six Nations Landfill Site to demand that owner John Kearns shut down his disintegrator and leave the territory. Community members are concerned that his machine is producing carcinogens and other dangerous emissions which are being emitted through the smokestacks of the disintegrator. Many local residents surrounding the landfill site have complained of toxic smells and black smoke coming from the machine.
Kearns claims that his machine is emissions free and also claims that any kind of garbage can be incinerated in his unit including: plastics, aerosol cans and metals, therefore obviating the need to recycle. Perhaps in light of these claims, the SNEC sold a brand new recycling truck which they never used, in an auction last month.
Director of Public Works, Mike Montour stated, “We were cutback around $300,000 this year. Now we have to look at options and the practicality of those options.” The current landfill site is 40 acres and was supposed to last 40 years, it only lasted 20, stated Montour. Another alternative, he stated, would be to send the garbage off the reserve and charge community members by the bag. But is sending garbage off reserve for someone else to deal with the right way to go? SNEC is at a dead end with the garbage crisis and feels that burning it in Kearns’ machine is the best option at this point.
AW Recycling started operating a recycling depot at the landfill site back in August 2013. When they first started, they had a 2% recycling rate. Now, they claim to have 20% of the community actively recycling. “We’re looking for more support from the community,” stated AW Recycling owner, Mark Annett. “We’ve invested $47,000 of our own money into recycling and we’re looking for help from Band Council to get the recycling rates up. From the studies we’ve done, up to 70-80% of garbage is recyclable,” stated Annett.
Community member Rhonda Martin brought up an important issue. According to Martin, people need to be thinking about ways to reduce household garbage. “We need to stop buying cardboard and processed food. We never used to live that way.”
Sandy Montour, (the mother of Mike Montour) spoke of her experience living directly in front of the landfill site, “We had to sell our barbecue because the smell was just so bad, we didn’t feel safe cooking food in our barbecue. I don’t garden because of the garbage at the dump.”
Derek Sandy told those gathered that he was contacted by two ladies who were involved in raising awareness on the hazards of waste incineration. “I took them to Council and they met with Ava, Dayle, Bill Montour, Wray, Carl and Mike. I asked Ava to listen to the women speak. All I wanted to do was have the machine tested. We’ve all seen black smoke coming out of the machine. Workers want to speak out about all the things that are going wrong back there but they feel they can’t because they’ll lose their jobs. One worker said the thermometer on Kearns’ machine don’t even work. Another worker said Kearns puts wood ashes in his machine when other people come to look at it. I’ve looked at his paperwork, it’s 15 years old. It’s outdated. Workers back there should be wearing respirators. They’re not even following basic health and safety protocols back there. There’s black soot on the clothes of the workers, just imagine what they are breathing in. We need that machine tested (for air quality).”
SNEC Chief Ava Hill told Sandy, “We are committed to testing the machine. We’re waiting on the Ministry of the Environment to see if they will do it for free. We need to get recycling. We can’t continue to put waste in the landfill site.”
Community member Mike Doxtader said, “Twenty-five years ago we started a group called Six Nations Against Pollution. The landfill site contains medical waste, construction waste and hazardous waste. It’s all going into the ground. This is why the cancer rates on the reserve are so high. There’s cancer clusters all over around here. There’s a lot of scientific evidence saying incineration or any other type of thermal heating of garbage is a huge problem.”
Rhonda Martin directed her question to SNEC but never received a definitive answer, “How much time was spent researching this machine? And how much time before we realize our trees are dying and our kids are getting sick? These types of machines are required by law to be registered with the Ministry of the Environment. Kearns’ machine is not registered. If Council can create bylaws, why don’t you create recycling bylaws and employ people to help?”
Bomberry stated, “We need evidence to support claims that Kearns’ machine is not working,” but one person from outside the community told his perspective, “The very fact that people are seeing black smoke coming from this machine and smelling garbage being burned should be your only indicator that this machine does not work and should be shut down immediately.”