Longtime incinerator critic pleased facility may be closed

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Aug. 7, 2004

An unrelenting critic of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's incinerator is pleased to hear the facility may be on the chopping block.

"This community has been exposed to toxic emissions from the burning of biomedical waste and garbage for too many years," said Marlene Kane, an environmental activist who has dedicated her personal time to seeing the incinerator's doors close. "The sooner it shuts down, the better."

Kane said incinerating solid waste and the province's biomedical waste is an expensive and unsafe way of dealing with garbage. "Moving to a different way of waste disposal is long overdue."

She noted exceedances of dioxins and furans in 2001 and 2002, as reported by the Department of Environment and Labour in the form of a letter to the municipality are alarming. "Those stack tests are done under ideal conditions," she said. "There would be exceedances on a daily basis when conditions were less than ideal."

Dioxins and furans are of particular importance to enviromnental regulators because of
- as government describes it - their extraordinary environmental persistence and capacity to accumulate in biological tissues.

As a result, dioxins and furans are slated for virtual elimination under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the federal Toxic Substances Management Policy, and the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment's Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances.

In a report presented to council during a recent in-camera session, Kevin MacDonald, the director of engineering and public works, recommended the municipality should transport its garbage to Guysborough County.

The change will result in the incinerator's closure and likely job losses. Kane said it's discouraging that jobs at the incinerator may be gone as a result of its closure, especially since the loss was preventable.

The municipality had plenty of time to develop a second-generation landfill - required by provincial law as of 2006 - closer to home, she said. "I question how much time the CBRM put into finding a place for one."

She agrees that a number of residents are no longer willing to accept landfills in their communities and it would be a challenge for the municipality to locate one. As well, the option of constructing a second-generation landfill in this region is nearly impossible.

"The difficulty in leaving the decision to the last minute is that you're narrowing your options," she said. "And I'm not in favour of the incinerator getting an extension on its operation in order to accommodate tardiness."