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Our old garbage dump still vents methane

When you put your garbage bin, your recycling bin or your green bin at the curb for pickup, do you ever wonder where the Town of Leaside used to put that garbage? Why in the Don Valley of course!

The original Leaside landfill site (we used to call it the dump) was located where Crothers Woods are today. When I was a kid that was a great open field accessed by Pottery Rd. before the Bayview Extension was constructed.

My buddies and I used to play on the cliffs overlooking the Don Valley where we could watch what seemed like an almost continuous line of freight trains going by and then beyond that open trucks dumping their loads of Leaside garbage. 

That site was closed in 1965 just before the merger with East York. It is now home to compacted garbage 20 to 25 metres deep in an area of 8.4 hectares. After it was closed it was covered with top soil and allowed to revert to its natural state.

The East York Board of Education used the site, which they called Sun Valley, as an outdoor education centre. Sadly today, no one at the Toronto District School Board has any record of this. So much for the corporate memory after the 1998 Toronto amalgamation. Since 2004, 5,000 trees have been planted on this site.

Old garbage dumps generate methane gas. The methane gas from this old Leaside dump has been and still is vented into the atmosphere while being regularly monitored, first by Metro now by the city of Toronto. Methane is a relatively potent greenhouse gas but it can be and is currently used by some cities, including a number of American cities, to generate electricity, which is then fed into the power grid.

The city of Vaughan, the city above Toronto, is doing this right now with the methane from the former Keele Valley landfill site. Here in Toronto there are a great many of these old dump sites, but we don’t make use of the methane gas. We just vent it into the atmosphere.

After the Sun Valley dump was closed, Leaside opened a new dump site in the Don Valley at the north east corner of the Leaside industrial area, right next to where the townhouses and high rise apartments have been and are being built. This was directly across Eglinton from what at that time was the Inn on the Park Hotel.

When the dump was active the hotel guests with windows facing Eglinton could entertain themselves watching Leaside garbage trucks dumping their loads across the street. Likely this was more interesting than watching then popular programs such as Howdy Doody on their hotel room television set.

When they were seeking approval for the 965-unit residential development in the industrial area, the developer proposed to excavate all the garbage from this site and dump it somewhere else. It also agreed to install a methane gas collection and monitoring system, the ultimate responsibility for which was to rest with the municipality.

At present the construction of a third high rise apartment is underway on the edge of the old dump. According to the city works department, radioactive material likely originating from the WW II Research Enterprises and garbage from the old dump have now been cleared away from the site, but not yet between the site and Eglinton Ave.  Although I have been unable to locate them, the works department tells me there are now vents in place allowing the methane to escape into the atmosphere.

After Leaside merged with East York our garbage was taken to the Bermondsey Transfer Station and then transported to the Beare Rd. landfill site in Scarborough.

While I served on Metro Council, Metro purchased the Keele Valley site. We were assured at the time that it could be sealed to prevent any leaching into the ground water and that the site was so large it would never be completely filled. Keele Valley was closed in 2002.

Since then our garbage has been shipped to Michigan and now to Green Lane near London, Ontario.