Don’t poop on La Peche, Quebec

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by Nikki Mantell on January 27, 2010

Do you poop? Yes? Well, do you know where your poop goes?

All of us should ask ourselves these questions – including the La Peche residents up in arms over the municipality’s recent contracting out of a feasibility study for a regional sewage treatment plant.

We all poop and thanks to the City of Gatineau’s decision that it no longer wants to accept outside septic waste, now we have to take a hard look at what we produce and where it goes.

In proposing possible sites on its territory, La Peche is trying to solve a problem which its residents create in no small part. While the municipality made mistakes, the main being a lack of public consultation up front, council should not be lambasted for doing what is essentially the right thing.

Fortunately, a compromise was reached at this week’s council meeting: La Peche will request a change of terms to the Cima+ contract to make technology the primary focus, and to open up possible locations to the rest of the MRC regional government. This made many opponents happier. Many still want the two proposed La Peche locations nixed altogether.

Protestors should ask themselves: how much of their resistance is pure NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)? Two of the main requests in a letter sent to council by a very organized citizen’s coalition (their blog: http://blueskyfolk.wordpress.com/) are: Cancel the contract altogether; and ask the other municipalities to put forward locations. In other words, “not here, put it over there”.

No one wants a septic waste plant in their backyard; council was going to meet resistance whether they consulted early or late (and for the record, much of the coalition’s letter asks for better transparency).

But suggestions of hidden agendas or personal or political gain are unfounded and unfair.

La Peche proposed sites because the MRC asked it (and all the other municipalities) to do so following Gatineau’s threat to close its plant to our waste. A plant needs to be near the high density area of the MRC (Cantley, Chelsea, Val des Monts and La Peche) and the most popular technology requires it be close to a river – which narrows it down to the Gatineau. Since trucks need to access it by highway that further narrows it to Cantley (with little highway access to the river) and La Peche, the logical choice.

La Peche finally proposed two sites: at Echo Dale Rd the sandpits are already somewhat contaminated, and the the Beausoleil site would become a light industrial park further uglified by the incoming Hwy 5 extension.

When Gatineau eventually closes to the region, costs of trucking the waste elsewhere probably much further will go up and up as will the greenhouse gas emissions. (And like our current dry materials garbage problem, there is the risk that the local lack of treatment plants may entice cost-cutting private septic pump companies to dump in a ravine somewhere.)

By stepping up to the plate, La Peche gains control over an increasingly problematic situation, saves residents money in transportation costs and most importantly, is doing its part in taking care of the environment.

Whether residents have a holding tank that is pumped every six months or a septic field that is pumped every three to five years – we all have poop to deal with and it all has to go somewhere.

Let the experts at Cima+ do their job to find the best solution and give La Peche council a break for trying to do the right thing.