May 17 2004

Kingston Whig-Standard   May 17/2004

Don’t appeal dump ruling

by Editorial

Let’s hope councillors turn the city’s latest legal defeat into a victory for citizens and the environment. Last Wednesday, three Ontario Court of Appeal judges unanimously upheld three convictions against the city for allowing pollution from the old Belle Park dump to seep into the Cataraqui River.

The seven-year battle has cost Kingston taxpayers $431,000 in legal fees. And despite attempts to control the pollution, an estimated 200,000 litres of garbage juice continues to seep into the river daily, creating unknown environmental and health hazards.

City councillors will sit down with lawyers behind closed doors to determine whether they should continue to appeal. Let’s hope they stop now. The reasons for appeal, and chances of success, have been drastically diminished with the latest ruling.

The appeal court decision upholds three charges laid by the provincial environment ministry against Kingston, stating that the “toxic soup” was leaching into the river. The decision supports a provision in the federal Fisheries Act that only requires proof that, in this case, the leachate is toxic. It is not necessary to prove that a substance is actually doing damage.

It’s a good bet that taxpayers do not want to fund yet another challenge to the federal law. It would be more productive at this juncture to face the facts and turn appeal money into clean-up funds.

The ongoing remediation and monitoring work, which since 1999 has cost taxpayers more than $2 million, is not a solution.

In fact, whatever decision-making meetings are held should take place in public, not in private. This is especially important if the city decides to appeal. And if the city does, then citizens should know what reasons councillors have for continuing the fight.

Whether out of naivete or for the sake of expediency, city forefathers made a big mistake when they started a dump at the Belle Park site in the 1950s.

Fifty years later, it’s time to correct that mistake, along with the myriad other sewage and pollution problems this generation of Kingstonians has inherited.

Belle Park is one of several outstanding obstacles to a healthy, sustainable future for Kingston. Council must now begin discussing a long-term plan to fix the problem.

And the more public and open that debate, the better for everyone.