Durham hires consultant after ‘toxic waste’ discovery forces shut down of Clarington road project

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Published September 28, 2022 at 4:39 pm

Durham Region has hired a third-party environmental engineering consultant to take samples of the recycled materials used in a road project in Clarington after a local resident discovered toxic materials such as decaying batteries, cell phone parts and syringes in the mix.

The re-construction of Newtonville Rd. in Clarington is on hold after Andrew McVey found “toxic waste” amongst the crushed glass that was supposed to make the road base in the pilot project.

The project involved laying down a two-inch thick foundation of recycled materials before the final paving is done. But McVey found a lot more than crushed glass and told Clarington Council it was material that should be in a proper landfill, not close to a watershed.

“I really, really don’t want another Walkerton here,” he said.

Durham Region, which has responsibility for the project, has promised to put off paving the road until an investigation into the composition of the material and the sorting process used is complete. Their contractor, Dufferin Construction, will remain on site to complete other aspects of the reconstruction project.

John Presta, the Region’s Works Commissioner, said they are taking the concerns “seriously,” which is why they hired Malroz Engineering Inc. to test the road materials to ensure they meet the Region’s expectations.

“This is a pilot project that has a goal of looking for innovative ways to reuse recycled municipal material, while also protecting the environment,” Presta explained. “The Newtonville Road Rehabilitation Pilot Project is following our guiding principles to apply innovative approaches to Regional waste streams to manage them as resources, while also improving our environmental footprint.”

The Newtonville Road Rehabilitation Pilot Project is a 3.6-kilometre stretch of roadway between the fourth and sixth concessions that was split into two phases: Phase one was completed in fall 2021, recycling the existing road base and using other traditional materials. Phase two was focused on the southerly section of the road and included recycled materials such as crushed glass and recycled plastics from blue box collections for a beneficial new use.

An estimated six tonnes of mixed plastic and 400 tonnes of recycled glass from Durham Region’s Material Recovery Facility will be used for the second phase, as well as 4.5 tonnes of polyethylene terephthalate fibres (made from recycled plastic).

Done right, the project could help reduce the volume of aggregate materials mined and trucked in for road construction, while possibly increasing the strength, durability and overall pavement life cycle of the road network.

More information can be found on the project page at durham.ca\NewtonvilleRoad.

McVey, who was one of several delegates at last week’s council meeting, believed the Region “recklessly” dumped the toxic materials in with the crushed glass and recycled plastics. Other materials found in the mix, he told council, included razor blades, antennae parts, metal hooks, dental tools, keys and pennies.

Clarington Council passed a motion that demanded that “no further work” be done on the road and that the section of road found to contain toxic material be “removed immediately.”

 

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