Illegal dumping of unwanted, and sometimes toxic, soil from dozens of major construction sites across the GTA is threatening the ecosystem and creating an unsightly mess in the bucolic countryside.
Dirt dumps are popping up on farmers’ fields and vacant lots across the region, according to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority — one of the organizations struggling to deal with this problem.
Trucks are dumping tons of dirty soil and debris and it represents a significant profit for truckers and a great saving for developers.
The problem arises from the fact that every time another basement in a new subdivision is excavated, the dirt has to be dumped somewhere. Rather than using the province’s regulated, and costly, soil dump sites, some contractors are turning to soil brokers — middlemen who, for a fee, match builders with willing landowners.
And those middlemen, Baldwin says, are often members of organized crime groups.
When tonnes of dirt, toxic or clean, are dumped onto a flood plain, it raises the risk that the next heavy rainfall could lead to a serious flood.
As well, he says, landowners who illegally accept soil for a price — usually $75 to $100 a truckload — have no way of knowing if it contains contaminants. If it does, the landowner is on the hook for the clean-up price, which can be tens of thousands of dollars.
The public in some of these areas appears to be taking notice. Baldwin recently identified a property on Ravenshoe Road in Georgina Township, near Keswick, that was being used a dump site.
It is legal for developers to dump waste soil from new subdivisions on private land, provided the owner of the property has received a permit from either the local conservation authority or the municipality, however such permits are rarely granted.
But at a cost of $150 or more per truckload, legitimate sites can be expensive for developers, compared to the prices charged by unregulated dump site, even when the broker’s fee is tacked on.
New regulations approved by the previous provincial government have not yet been enacted by the newly elected Progressive Conservatives and the outcome will determine how this issue plays out.
Those rules would require that all soil removed from construction sites be tested for contaminants. It would also put in place mechanisms for tracking where the soil is shipped.
But as long as it costs way too much for builders to dump their load legally, going the cheaper way will continue to be more popular. -CINEWS