The Upper Ottawa Landfill Site Association : Environmentalist of the Year – 1987

Through persistent and intelligent action, the Upper Ottawa Landfill Site Association focused attention on the problems arising from the dump site, culminating in the closure of the site and the most intensive research study ever carried out on a dump in the province of Ontario.

It is difficult to put an exact date on when the group began its action, but in 1974 the province warned the Region to clean up nine aspects of the site. A committed group of workers who resided in the area of the dump formed a core group. Prominent among them were Ron Bridgeland, Hedy Gervais, Douglas Stowe and Ed Stodulka. The core group expanded as the need arose.

There were newsletters to write, print and distribute, phone teams to organize, fund raising projects to carry out and many other jobs that had to be done by volunteers. The campaign covered a period of approximately 14 years and during that period well over a thousand people were involved in various aspects of the work.

In the early stages of the campaign most officials brushed the Association off as troublesome meddlers. It was not until 1979, when the group organized a mass demonstration at the dump site, that the politicians took notice. A number of the elected representatives were present at the demonstration and pledged their support to clean up the mess. The demonstration was supported by well over 400 residents of the area, indicating strong support for the committee’s actions.

The persistance of the group finally paid off, and the dump was closed in 1980. The Ontario Government decided to set up an investigative procedure and on October 21, 1981 pursuant to the Health Act, appointed a team of research workers to investigate data collected by the Association claiming that the dump was emitting gases that were having a deleterious effect upon the health of local residents.

Dr. Arthur N. Bourns, a former president of McMaster, was chosen to head the research team. The Association initially suspected the research team of being another stall technique of the government. It is a credit to the maturity of the Association and the excellent leadership of Dr. Bourns, that the suspicion evaporated and a good basis for cooperation was established for the rest of the work.

New techniques had to be developed to carry out the research, the most intensive of its kind within the province. The results of the study were released in 1986. In November of 1987, the Province of Ontario acted on the advice of the research team and initiated action to monitor, collect and destroy the gas emanating from the dump. It was established that it would take the authorities about two years to develop equipment and have it in place and functioning.

The work of the Association is a tribute to the persistence and commitment of the core group. Despite many formidable obstacles they held together with loyalty and determination. Through the campaign they maintained contact with their community, never losing sight of the importance of keeping them informed and involved. The quality of air was improved because of the success of their efforts. This is one project where we all share the rewards through a cleaner Environment. Hamilton-Wentworth needs to remember such a noteworthy accomplishment!