Lisa Gervais: Time to ask tough questions
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | July 13, 2017
A municipality receiving a Provincial Officer’s Order is not a common event. But that’s exactly what Minden Hills has for the Scotch Line landfill – over what Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change staff say is “indicative of poor landfill operational practices.”
The Highlander’s been receiving complaints about Scotch Line for some time now, and we’ve been keeping an eye on things. Since this spring in particular, we’ve noticed the construction and demolition waste pile grow and grow.
Despite assurances it will be chipped and used as alternative daily cover, the pile remains steep. We’ve noticed things such as plastics and upholstered furniture on that pile, and wondered if they should be there. Now, we know they shouldn’t. We’ve also noticed the black and orange staining that is characteristic of leachate. And we’ve seen a fair bit of garbage in the woods along the dump road. The township says it does a good job of waste diversion – bragging about a landfill lifespan that has increased by years –- but we’re not convinced.
We’ve noticed a Highlands Environmental attendant by the big blue recycling bins, near the gate. This is good. He’s been having a quick look to ensure people are putting the right stuff in the right bin.
Trouble is, there should be more stuff showing up at this stage of the process. What doesn’t show up is often dumped along the way. The news isn’t good at the recycling tent either. Since the volunteers were kicked out last year, it’s a shambles. People drop stuff off and there’s no one to sort through it. You physically cannot get to the back of the tent to see if there is something of re-use.
Some items are left uncovered and spoiling in the weather. We understand the township was worried about liability issues with volunteers working at the landfill but, really, in its current state, the seasonal tent is failing in its purpose to promote reusing discarded items. So, who’s to blame for this mess? The township contracts Highlands Environmental to provide attendants at the Scotch Line and other landfill and transfer stations. It also contracts Cambium Inc. to periodically inspect, report and make recommendations.
Cambium pointed out some of the issues, in its annual monitoring report to council, in late April. Their 25-year plan for Scotch Line is now with the MOECC, awaiting approval. As for Highlands Environmental, they say they have no role or authority with regards to site management or operation.
They say they, too, have brought concerns to municipal staff. The township has called a special meeting of council to discuss the situation, scheduled for Monday, July 17 at 1 p.m. It’s time our councillors asked some tough questions of staff, Highlands Environmental and Cambium on behalf of their constituents: how did the landfill get to this state and how will it be cleaned up. They’ll also have to take a look at their own oversight role and ask themselves, honestly, if they’re adequately informed and engaged to ensure the township’s waste is managed safely and sustainably.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.