Operations at the Maple Lake landfill in Algonquin Highlands were brought into the 21st century this month following the unveiling of a new weigh scale – the first in Haliburton County.

The project had been in the works for around six years, according to Melissa Murray, the township’s environmental manager. The scale was a key component of a $1.5 million investment at Maple Lake, which included the construction of a new operations centre, which opened last summer.

The scale cost $135,000 to buy and install, with $100,000 funded through Ontario’s municipal modernization program and $35,000 from municipal reserves.

“A lot of people have been asking when the scale would be installed – there’s been a lot of buzz since this was announced,” Murray said.

Initial discussions were held in 2018, with the township’s previous council giving Murray the green light to investigate. The scale was approved in 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Murray spent two years getting quotes and ensuring technical studies required for the scale’s installation were complete.

Prep work began at the scale location in the fall of 2022. It became operational April 3.

Murray said the scale is a game-changer for ensuring there are accurate waste counts at Maple Lake moving forward, noting all Algonquin Highlands taxpayers will benefit.

“We’ve always had a disconnect between the amount of materials we received and the amount of materials we haul out. It always cost us more than we were receiving, because we charged by volume, using cubic yards, while now we charge strictly by weight. So, there’s no disparity,” Murray said. “The addition of this scale has made this a more equitable system for everyone.”

Under the old system, Murray said items that were small but heavy, or had been soaked with rain, were regularly undercharged, while things like insulation, which can be bulky but with little weight, usually overcharged.

She said before, around 50 per cent of items shipped to other landfills outside the County weren’t adequately covered by disposal charges, so fell on the township.

“It basically became part of our tax levy – all residents had to pay,” she said. Asked for a dollar amount, Murray said that’s difficult to quantify as the township has changed its tracking data and processes in recent years.

Residents won’t be charged for dropping off household garbage, scrap metal, and blue box recyclables – but bulky waste, construction and demolition waste, and furniture will be charged 22 cents per kilogram, or $220 per tonne, with a minimum charge of $15. Brush, leaves, mulch, wood chips and yard waste can be disposed of for $110 per tonne.

Murray was at Maple Lake April 3 for the scale’s unveiling and spoke with several residents who stopped by, with the response mostly positive.

While Algonquin Highlands might be the first township in the County to incorporate weigh scales at a landfill, it won’t be the last. Chelsea Cosh, manager of waste facilities in Minden Hills, said a recently approved re-design of the Scotch Line landfill will implement scales. John Watson, environmental manager in Dysart et al, said there are tentative plans for a scale at the Haliburton landfill.

There could be more to come in Algonquin Highlands, too.

“It’s always in the back of our mind from a planning perspective – we’ll see how things go at Maple Lake,” Murray said. “Pine Springs and Oxtongue Lake don’t receive enough material to justify having a scale there – but the Dorset Transfer Station, while a small site, could be a nice location.”

For more information on new disposal fees at Maple Lake, visit algonquinhighlands.ca.