Friday, July 03, 2009

Why are Toronto Parks the First Choice in Dump Sites?

So, the Friends of Christie Pits Park are not only protesting their park being used as a temporary dump by Toronto, but they're also protesting the use of the pesticide Permethrin (Dragnet FT), a rodenticide (Generation Mini Blocks), and a chemical to slow down decomposition of organic matter (OCS Deodorant). Well, really.

How insane can you be, to prefer rats and mosquitoes over Permethrin and rodent killing traps. I mean have we become so complacent that we've forgotten that malaria used to ravage humans here and that pests carry many diseases, even if the plague is not in the Toronto area. Have we forgotten how ill pests can make us, worse perhaps than Permethrin, especially as they're all making a comeback between climate change, no more use of DDT, and the city's garbage policy. Only West Nile got our attention in recent years, but the anxiety over it too is fading.

That was my response when I watched the television news reporting that the Friends are against using the chemicals as they pose a hazard to humans worse than rats, flies, and mosquitoes and strikers are blocking the pesticide trucks as a civic duty (yeah, right). But then I started wondering why the city is suddenly so worried about rats when their garbage policy has led to an increased number of rats and raccoons whose territorial fights merit not even a shrug from them? Is it because the garbage is now in plain view of the public and thus the rats will be too -- unlike normal when garbage at transfer stations is hidden from all but the relative few who trek there -- and that obvious twosome will make citizens start to wonder about rat control in general or about the infrequent garbage pickups? Or is it because they don't want the real message of the Friends to get out?

Why are parks the first choice in dump sites?

On the CBC radio show Metro Morning, the Friends of Christie Pits' spokesman Boris Steipe said he wasn't too concerned about Permethrin and the deodorant as they've been well tested and long used, but he was concerned about what they didn't know: what's in the leachate from all those garbage bags. (It always pays to listen to the horse itself as reporters usually manage to skew the main message, although it doesn't help that the different Friends seem to have different concerns and the strikers are mixing it up too.) He knew the bags are leaking as they drip when carried across the sidewalk and into the hockey rink where they're tossed into the growing pile. On their website and in news reports, the Friends worry about that leachate trickling into the ground water (I think Toronto's ground water is pretty much a lost cause personally) and Garrison Creek. Yet Steipe said that the rain is accumulating into a turgid pond because being a rink, the water is not leaking out. So I find that part of their argument a bit, um, like skating on thin ice.

Still, his question about why parks first is a good one. The city is full of wastelands bigger than multiple hockey rinks, ginormous parking lots -- which in winter get shrunk in useful size by snowplows, so we're already used to dealing with smaller lots -- hidden under-highway deserts, all places where people tend not to congregate, children tend not to roll around on, and which are already polluted, yet City Council in concert with the city management chose some hockey rinks children use extensively and mostly green spaces sitting cheek by jowl to houses as the first choice in temporary dump sites.

Since they've always done it, it's an easy decision for the city to make, no thinking involved, kind of like Council's decision to approve their own cost-of-living pay increase as they froze non-union workers' pay and faced a looming strike. Also, car drivers would honk like mad if even one parking space was taken from them. But since the city has decided to make this strike their line-in-the-sand, they ought to have known that it will probably last the summer (well OK, maybe they're dumb enough not to have realised that) and that using the parks as dumps would essentially shut them down during the whole of the hot weather when we need them most, especially inner city kids with no means of escaping city heat.

But these dumps being near homes does serve one purpose: to so overwhelm citizens' noses that they'll scream to their Councillors in ever shriller choruses for back-to-work legislation and then City Council will say we wanted to wait it out but Torontonians inundated us too much with protests, so what could we do but, uh, cave.

No comments: