Cantley dump owners declare bankruptcy

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by Nikki Mantell on May 27, 2009

The owners of the Cantley dry dump have filed for bankruptcy, ending a years-long battle with the province and local residents after their license was revoked in 2006 for poor environmental performance.

Cantley mayor Steve Harris hopes the bankruptcy clears the way for Quebec’s environment ministry to take over the site and the necessary clean-up.

“This is completely in the jurisdiction of the province now,” he said. “Money is going to be a factor but I don’t think the ministry has any choice. This is their monster.”

The site’s clean-up will involve covering it with a membrane, followed by sand and eventually planting on top of it.

In March, the Quebec Superior Court rejected the dump owners’ appeal to overturn then-Environment Minister Claude Bechard’s September 2006 decision to close the dump. Le Droit reported the owners’ debt at close to $700,000.

A Quebec Administrative Tribunal had previously upheld the decision in October 2007 – a ruling that led the owners to file for bankruptcy protection – and again last summer, sending the owners to superior court as a last resort. They were also fined $66,644 dollars last summer after pleading guilty to violations.

The dump’s history over the past five years has been marred by violence, harassment and lawsuits.

Bob McClelland, president of the Cantley Dump Committee, is also concerned about who will take care of the expensive clean-up required at the site.

“Our concern is that the dump’s been closed since 2007 and it’s kind of like an open wound. It’s not being looked after properly. There are still gasses coming off it that haven’t been properly analyzed.”

McClelland said all dumps in the province are required to post a $300,000 security deposit to be used in cases such as Cantley’s. He blames slack government surveillance for failing to secure the bond.

“We have all paid the price now. (The government) doesn’t want to pay for this cleanup but eventually they’re going to have to, I think.”

McClelland also claimed dump owners Denzil Thom and Gilles Proulx were operating two numbered companies for the dump. The one that lost its license and filed for bankruptcy, he said, is not the same company that was receiving income for the dump’s operations.

Andre Guibord, spokesperson for the dump’s owners, had no comment from Thom and Proulx.

Leon Martin, director of the environment ministry’s regional office, said his department intends to see the site properly closed as quickly as possible, but he couldn’t offer a definite timeline or a price tag for the clean-up.

Mayor Harris hopes the province will make a decision to move within the next few weeks.

“This situation has been festering for a long time now. There’s work that should have been done three years ago.”