Guysborough landfill runoff treated at Sydney plant

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Wed., Feb. 7, 2007

SYDNEY - A curious resident has uncovered a pact that has Guysborough County landfill runoff being dumped into a sewage treatment plant in Sydney.

Debbie Ouellette of Sydney said a neighbour informed her that tanker trucks were dumping an unknown material into a manhole on the former Sysco property. She photographed the vehicles with a digital camera and sent the shots to Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor John Morgan.

"You have to be on top of these people," said Ouellette. "What really upset me was that there was nothing on the outside of the trucks (to identify their contents)."

Mike MacKeigan, the municipality's utilities manager, replied to Ouellette's questions. He said that for the past 10 months, Guysborough has been trucking leachate to Sydney's sewage treatment plant. The landfill leachate flows into a nearby settling pond and is collected by tanker trucks before the pond overflows. The trucks then haul the material to Sydney using Route 4. Originally, the waste was dumped at Sysco but is now released at Battery Point, he added.

The municipality gets 55 cents a gallon and each tanker holds about 8,000 gallons. Each week an average of four tanker trucks dump their load into the manhole. All costs are covered by Guysborough.

"Contrary to what people may be saying, this is not a toxic substance," he said. "Therefore, the trailers don't have to be marked as a toxic substance."

The provincial Environment Department was consulted before the agreement was made and treated material is tested at the sewage treatment plant and a credited lab in Sydney. To date, results show no exceedances, he said.

"We have made it clear to officials of Guysborough County that we will not accept any material that is toxic in nature or has the potential of breaking down our treatment process," replied MacKeigan.

Each tanker has a document confirming its contents that is reviewed by the municipality. "We don't just accept the tanker load of material."

The liquid was supposed to be dumped at a waste-water treatment plant now under construction in Port Hawkesbury but there were delays and now the plant won't be operational until May.

MacKeigan said the mayor and councillors were informed about the agreement. However, the matter was mostly discussed internally. Accepting the leachate is part of a 20-year agreement the municipality has with Guysborough County, he added.

Currently, Guysborough has agreed to manage up to 750 tonnes of the municipality's garbage each week at its second generation landfill. The municipality expects to spend about $2.3 million annually to have the solid waste transported and managed off-island.