Former Thornhill landfill eyed as habitat

published by yorkregion,com on June 13, 2012

Residents in the Settlers Park community are hopeful their cherished greenspace, slated for an aerobic bioreactor pilot project, will be preserved after a notice of motion was tabled at Markham council Tuesday night.
The motion, introduced by Thornhill Councillor Howard Shore, calls for the former Sabiston landfill site, near John and Leslie streets, to be recognized and preserved as a unique natural habitat.
The motion, to be discussed by councillors June 26, makes several stipulations, including:
• That the town no longer consider aerobic technology for the landfill;
• The land formally be brought  under Markham’s parks system; and,
• Additional safety measures be put in place until confirmation has been received methane gas is no longer a concern at the site.
Residents, who organized a petition and campaign to stop the project this spring, say they are relieved a solution may be in sight.
“I believe this would be an extremely important legacy … to give to our future generations … to help protect this rare, sensitive green space, not only for these threatened species of birds, but to improve quality to life for the residents in Markham who use this amazing park,” said Kimberly Seymour, whose home backs onto the 20 acres.
This is the second time in six years aerobic technology has been considered for the site and Mr. Shore said it’s time to trash the idea.
Markham, along with Ontario Centres of Excellence, Seneca College and SPL Beatty, a groundwater consulting firm, were interested in partnering to implement a pilot test of aerobic technology designed to speed up landfill decomposition.
The town hoped the project will eliminate leachate, reduce methane gas and show that Markham is an environmental leader.
But residents provided research showing the landfill too old to have any significant methane emission and asked for the space to be left as is, designated as a natural preserve for endangered species.
In his motion, Mr. Shore suggests calling the area, now used for bike and walking trails, the German Mills Meadow and Natural Habitat.
It would indicate, he said, “this area is fundamentally different today than when the landfill closed (37 years ago). This is lush, green grass, beautiful trees. Let’s call this what it is.”
Because the town is still obliged, by the Ministry of Environment and for the sake of the community, to ensure safety of local residents, Mr. Shore’s motion calls for additional measures, including adding more methane monitors, increasing the frequency of reading checks by staff, consideration of a leachate collection system to protect the local creek from “garbage juice” seeping into the ground and an annual report on the testing of water quality.
Funding for these extra measures could come from the almost $500,000 budgeted for the pilot project six years ago, he said, “so we won’t need to spend one new red cent of taxpayer dollars for this”.
While some council members wanted to hold off on the matter until September, Mr. Shore pushed for the issue to be dealt with at the last meeting before the summer break.
Artem Pozdnyakov, president of the community’s newly formed Settlers Park Residents Association, said his group believes the motion represents a “balanced and responsible approach” to the issue and called on residents to familiarize themselves with the motion and to provide their input to the association and local council.
“We expect open public participation in the discussion because this way only can we ensure that council has an unbiased approach and makes a decision that benefits the community and the town.”
Residents were in an uproar last weekend after discovering the meadow land had been suddenly, inexplicably, mowed flat…

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