Major changes are coming to several landfills across Haliburton County as all four lowertier municipalities prepare to make sizable investments to reconfigure their largest sites and change the way they process materials.

Algonquin Highlands is the furthest along, having committed around $1.5 million to improve operations at the Maple Lake landfill. The township’s environmental manager, Melissa Murray, said a new operations centre, located beside the existing landfill site, will come online this summer.

She said there will be new drop-off areas for garbage, recyclable materials, construction and demolition waste, brush, batteries and mattresses.

“We were constantly having to shift where our collection areas were before, because they were right on the landfill mound. It was very time consuming and expensive for the municipality, and confusing for residents,” Murray said, noting the project has been in the works since 2019.

Another key feature will be the installation of a weigh scale – the first in the County. Murray said this will allow the township to get a more accurate reading on the amount of waste collected. She expects it will be operational by late summer.

County landfills to finally get weigh scales

“We were seeing a huge disparity in the amount of materials we recorded coming into the site and the amount of materials being hauled away,” she said. “Because we charge materials by the cubic yard and pay by the metric ton, the numbers never added up.”

She couldn’t provide an estimated cost savings, but noted the transition would allow for several operational efficiencies, while also improving customer service.

Murray noted the landfill at Maple Lake has a remaining lifespan of 46 years.

Investment elsewhere

John Watson said Dysart et al was planning an approximate $1 million redevelopment of the Haliburton landfill, located on Industrial Park Road.

Dysart council signed off on a $300,000 project, to be completed this year, to cap the landfill and re-naturalize the space, which was deemed at-capacity in 2019. The facility was redesignated as a transfer station in January 2020.

A second phase is planned to reconfigure the site and install a weigh scale. Watson said this may necessitate moving the entrance. He’s been working with a consultant on conceptual designs and hopes to bring a plan to council later this spring, with a view to starting work late this year or early next.

He noted any changes would first need to be ratified by the Ministry of Environment.

A huge increase in the amount of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, up 38 per cent over the past year, has meant Watson has had to change his thinking for the site. He’s proposing a larger drop-off and storage area for all C&D waste and said there could be a case for routing all C&D materials to the Haliburton site in future. Currently, the township accepts C&D waste at its Harcourt and West Guilford locations.

“Once the weigh scale is installed there, there will be some big questions asked, because having use of a scale will definitely benefit us when it comes to hauling out C&D waste,” Watson said.

Mike Timmins, director of public works at Minden Hills, said there have been tentative discussions between staff and council about enhancements at the Scotch Line landfill. The installation of a scale is a major one, while Timmins said he also wants to see some separation between work areas and publicly accessible space.

“We’re looking at the future and how we can improve and make the best use of the landfill that’s available. We’re trying to be as prudent as we can because we realize the value of these landfills. Once they’re full, that’s it,” Timmins said.

He said staff are working to come up with a schedule and system that addresses the needs of the community during the peak summer months, without being “overkill” and a cost burden during winter.

Timmins said he doubts there will be much movement on any work this year, with council pushing the project off during 2023 budget deliberations. An RFP put out last August, looking for bids to construct a new transfer station, garnered one response, with WSP saying it would complete the project for $8 million.

In Highlands East, council set money aside in its 2023 budget to clear a four-acre area at the Tory Hill landfill to be used for future expansion. Deputy CAO Brittany McCaw said there is no timeline in place for that development.

Looking to the future

Watson said there has been greater collaboration between the four townships over waste services in recent years and expressed his excitement over the single-tier waste management plan process the County initiated in March. That could see the upper-tier government establish a single program encompassing all four municipalities, which Watson said would bring efficiencies and cost-savings. A report is due back at County council later this year.

Addressing the idea of incineration, Watson said it would be far too expensive to bring a system to the Highlands and that the four municipalities combined don’t generate enough waste to make it worthwhile to ship to the new incinerator plant in Durham Region. He said that could be a possibility long-term if the County partnered with neighbouring municipalities.

“We have watersheds to manage our lakes and ecosystems, but what if we think about something like a ‘wasteshed’. Where the County partners with areas like Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough County – that would allow us to be more creative with our waste strategies, and would make us more appealing to service providers,” he said.