It’s back and it’s smellier than ever. The city of Chapais is reviving its idea of expanding its garbage dump to import tens of thousands of tonnes of waste from across northern Quebec.

The city’s plan would see a nearly 10-fold rise in the amount of garbage disposed at its sprawling 75,000-square-metre dump site. Only the city’s own garbage is taken there now – about 4,000 cubic metres per year.

Daniel Dufour, Chapais’s secretary-treasurer, said that would rise to 15,000 cubic metres a year if Chibougamau starts sending its garbage. Chibougamau’s own dump will run out of space in only four years.

Chapais is also hoping to import garbage from Lebel-sur-Quévillon, Matagami and the Municipalité de la Baie James. Dufour said the extra garbage means the total would be around 30,000 cubic metres per year.

“It would mean the city would receive waste from the entire region,” said Dufour.
An earlier plan to import waste from all over Quebec was already the subject of a lot of controversy. A provincial environmental panel rejected that project in 1996.

The panel, with two Cree reps and three from Quebec, had never before turned down a development project in its 18-year existence.

The panel held hearings into the project because the site was on two Cree traplines.

Then-Quebec Environment Minister David Cliche at first overruled the panel’s recommendation, giving the plan a thumbs-up. But after protests from Crees and Chapais residents, Cliche changed his mind and nixed the idea.

At the time, Ouje-Bougoumou Chief Abel Bosum said he was “outraged” when Cliche okayed the dump. Other Cree officials accused Chapais of wanting to turn the North into Quebec’s garbage can.

Sam Bosum, O.J.’s current chief, didn’t return calls about the latest plan.

Dufour said the new plan to import waste is motivated by “financial questions.” The city will charge other municipalities a fee for using the site. Dufour couldn’t say how much garbage would be imported annually under the new plan.

Michel Tremblay, the city’s engineer, said Chapais’s dump site has a capacity for 3 million tonnes of garbage. The site is so big it could serve Chapais for 125 to 130 years.

Dufour said the city isn’t planning any public hearings into the new plan. He didn’t know if approval is needed from environmental panels set up under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

In a 1995 poll for the Grand Council, 77 percent of Chapais residents said other parts of Quebec should handle their own garbage problems and not send it to their town. In Chibougamau, 81 percent agreed. Also, 68 percent in Chapais and 83 percent in Chibougamau feared the dump could pollute groundwater and soil in the area.

Many residents supported the project because they believed it would create jobs. But most jobs associated with the project were to come from a recycling facility near the dump that never got off the ground.

Without the recycling part, only 34 percent of Chapais residents said they would back the project.