LASTING IMPACTS AND PERCEIVED INEQUITIES: COMMUNITY REAPPRAISAL OF THE SITING OF A REGIONAL BIOSOLIDS PROCESSING FACILITY IN RURAL ONTARIO
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Lasting impacts and perceived inequities: community reappraisal of the siting of a regional biosolids processing facility in rural Ontario

 

This paper presents a comparative study of the shift in community perceptions pre- and post-siting of a biosolids processing facility – the Organic Material Recovery Centre – in the rural Township of Southgate, Ontario. The study responds to the need for comparative studies examining residents’ perceptions of contested noxious facilities during acrimonious siting processes and later during facility operations. Interviews were conducted before and after the techno-industrial facility was sited to compare community perceptions of the proposed and operational facility, and further examine residents’ experiences with residual impacts and reflections on the siting process. Results reveal that once the facility began operations and residents had the opportunity to understand its operational mandate and directions, many residents seem to accept the facility as less threatening to well-being, quality of life and core values. Nonetheless, sustained community concerns shifted to invisible impacts and long-term uncertainty. Findings highlight lingering intra-community conflict between those supporting and those who remained concerned about negative impacts. As a result of the hostile community conflict, the local politics seems to have morphed into a ‘one-issue’ political scene, whereby all issues are divided along the lines of municipal councillors opinions of the facility These findings make methodological contributions with pre- and post-siting comparative qualitative research and contribute theoretically to our understanding of residents’ reappraisal of contested noxious techno-industrial facilities, show sustained divisive social impacts within the community, and call for meaningful consultation and increased participatory siting processes that accounts for the diversity of values and expectations during facility siting.

Keywords: Facility siting, risk perceptions, sewage, procedural inequities, community concflict

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