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Concern growing over centralization of waste management

Chair of the NorPen Regional Service Board Gerry Gros says the board is now exploring other avenues for funding and fundraising to ensure the proposed fire hall for the Northern Peninsula Straits region can still come to fruition.
Chair of the NorPen Regional Service Board Gerry Gros (pictured) says the board is exploring alternatives to the province's waste management plan - Kyle Greenham photo

Northern Peninsula residents could face 400 per cent increase in fees; NorPen working to divert waste, educate public

ST. ANTHONY, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

It has been years since the province decided to centralize waste management and may yet be years before that decision finally impacts the Northern Peninsula. Nevertheless, concern is growing about shipping local garbage to Norris Arm North, one of two regional waste disposable facilities (host sites) on the island portion of the province.

“The cost is the biggest thing,” said St. Anthony Mayor Desmond McDonald. “We’re for moving our waste to Norris Arm, but we’re not in favour of the increased cost.”

That cost, per household, could be quadruple, or greater, than the current $115 St. Anthony residents pay, said Gerry Gros, chair of the Northern Peninsula Regional Services Board (NorPen), citing discussions with a consultant hired by the province.

Change coming

Last month, western Newfoundland — the area from Port aux Basques to Bellburns, including Corner Brook — became the latest region affected by centralization.

At the end of September, Central Newfoundland Waste Management — the entity responsible for the Norris Arm North facility — and Western Regional Waste Management reached an interim agreement to divert garbage from the western region to Norris Arm North. The cost to residents has yet to be finalized.

Municipal Affairs Minister Andrew Parsons confirmed for The Northern Pen that change is also coming to the Northern Peninsula and there will be a price to pay.

“We obviously know we have to move into the future in terms of waste management,” he said. “Doing it the status quo, the way it has been, is not acceptable, it’s not going to continue, but there’s ways to do it and we have to make sure people bear as little financial brunt of that as possible, but knowing that there’s a cost to moving into the next phase of waste management.”

The Newfoundland and Labrador government published the Solid Waste Management Strategy in 2002 with the stated goals of, by 2025, diverting solid waste by 50 per cent, reducing the number of waste disposal sites by 80 per cent, eliminating open burning and incineration and phasing out unlined landfills. An implementation plan was introduced in 2007 and the government committed to full funding at that time.

Still, nobody knows when it might happen here.

“We really don’t know, we haven’t had any notification at this point in time,” Gros said. “We anticipate at some point in time that we’re going to get asked to move our waste to Norris Arm.”

Alternatives proposed

In the meantime, NorPen is proposing alternatives. The board recommended to the province’s consultant that the Northern Peninsula be given its own host site or look at high heat incineration.

Neither of those options have been evaluated for feasibility, however, Gros said.

“Both require a certain amount of capital investment to properly prepare a host site with a lined landfill and all that,” he said. “High heat incineration also has costs attached to it, plus the fact that the emissions from high heat incineration are toxic, as well as, the ashes that are left behind are toxic. There’s going to have to be a lot of research and analysis done on just where does this bring us?”

Norpen has also written to Parsons.

“We’re waiting for word from the minister, we’ve addressed our concerns with him and we’ve asked him to attend one of our board meetings,” Gros said.

Waste diversion

Also in the meantime, NorPen is working on initiatives to reduce the amount of waste generated in the region ahead of possible centralization.

These include a pilot community composting project in Hawke’s Bay. Gros said diverting organics from the waste stream could reduce the amount of garbage by up to 30 per cent.

Other waste reduction strategies available to residents of the region, but not being fully taken advantage of, include recycling pop cans, juice containers, liquor bottles and beer bottles and eliminating single-use plastic bags.

“I think, with the help of the province, we need to do a hell of a lot of public education of why it’s good to divert all the organics out of the waste stream, why it’s good to recycle your pop cans and your juice containers and your liquor bottles and all that,” Gros said.

Ultimately, anything that reduces the amount of waste will reduce the cost to residents when change does come, according to St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows MHA Christopher Mitchelmore.

“These types of initiatives that they do is trying to divert waste before it actually gets to the landfill, so it can reduce costs,” he said. “There’s more initiatives that need to be done for recycling and waste diversion.”

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