Municipality facing garbage woes

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, Mar. 18, 2004

SYDNEY - The Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s back is against the proverbial wall and now it’s ready to come out fighting against provincial legislation that could cost municipal taxpayers millions of dollars by 2006.

During Wednesday’s public services committee meeting, councillors were presented a report by Dillon Consulting Ltd. on how the Cape Breton region can dispose of its solid waste once new landfill legislation comes into effect at the end of 2005.

The island is one of seven waste management regions in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton’s five municipal units are working together to design a solid waste plan for the management and diversion of the solid waste.

The single most important part of the regulation is that all solid waste residuals are to be disposed of in a second generation landfill. That means the municipality can extend existing landfill sites, develop a new one, or transport its garbage somewhere else.

There are many costs to consider, with each option including the possible construction of a landfill liner and cap, operating costs, leachate management, and transfer and haulage costs, varying considerably from municipal unit to municipal unit.

And time is ticking. Engineer Scott Kyle, who presented the information to committee members, said a decision is needed within four to six weeks so the municipal units will have time to make necessary arrangements to be compliant by the deadline.

That includes the option of exporting solid waste to Guysborough or Antigonish for up to $70 a tonne. The CBRM disposes of about 3,000 tonnes a year.

"We can’t bankrupt ourselves," said Jerry Ryan, chief administrative officer for the municipality. "We require financial assistance. We can’t afford to take on an enhanced service level at a cost to taxpayers." Ryan added the municipality is a "creature of the provincial government" but noted that the province is ignoring the municipality’s inability to pay for the improved service.

"Let them take us to court," said Coun. Kevin Saccary, a public services committee member. "You can’t get blood from a stone."

John Perkins, spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Labour, said that as long as the Grand Lake Road incinerator can continue to burn the municipality’s waste as set out in its permit, a second generation landfill is not needed. He added the province does not require ash to be dumped in a second generation landfill.

However, the incinerator has had its share of problems and is currently operating at about $700,000 over budget for the current fiscal year. It also stands to lose about $1 million in revenue if it loses a contract to burn the province’s biomedical waste – a possibility outlined in reports this week.

The situation becomes more complex when officials consider the municipality has a contract to give power generated from the incinerator to Nova Scotia Power Inc. That contract is up in 2011. If the municipality breaks that agreement, there is the possibility of hefty financial penalties that could cost the CBRM millions of dollars.

As well, there are about 50 employees that may lose their jobs if solid waste is transported off the island – also a prime concern for the municipality.