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When it comes to the process of getting a regional waste management service realized for the Bonavista Peninsula, Bonavista Mayor John Norman says the town is suffering from inaction.
“My opinion is that we’ve been hung out to dry,” said Norman.
While many regional solutions have been in place, with waste management boards like Eastern Waste and Central Waste, towns like Bonavista are still managing their own local landfills.
Norman told The Packet the town has met with representatives of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment, but have not been satisfied with the length of time it’s taken to see action.
He says there are issues with local garbage collection and transport because the contractor has older equipment, and obviously doesn’t want to invest in upgrades if the process will eventually fall until a regional waste management board.
And the town is reluctant to spend money to upgrade the local landfill if local trash will eventually be trucked away to a regional site.
“We’re dumping at a landfill that is practically at its maximum now,” he says. “It’s practically full. We have explained this to government many times before I became mayor and over the last two years — it’s been an ongoing issue.”
The incinerator at the local dump was decommissioned eight years ago, to comply with provincial rules to stop burning garbage.
And that's led to other challenges.
Because the trash can't be burned, it's piling up.
Norman says the site has almost reached its capacity.
There's so much garbage in the landfill, in fact, that heat is building up as the trash decomposes, causing fires to break out underground.
The mayor says a meeting with the official from the province this year was positive and included other municipalities from the region.
Norman says at that meeting they were given a ballpark estimate on annual garbage fees for residents once they move to a regional waste system.
“We were ready,” said Norman. He says the waste disposal fee for residents would have increased, while the town would absorb some of the cost as well.
“The consensus was, if (the cost per household) is $180 or less, we can afford this.”
The town’s current cost for garbage collection services is $260,000 annually for about 1,700 households and 90 businesses.
Bonavista town manager David Hiscock says he was told to expect a model to be in place by spring 2020.
Currently, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment is awaiting the results of a review of its waste management strategy.
The Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy was initiated in 2002 and this is the first major review of that system.
The final report on that review is expected by the end of this year.
Trinity Mayor Jim Miller was a member of the Discovery Regional Waste Management board when the initial waste management strategy for the province was put in place.
But Miller told The Packet they haven’t met in years.
“We were told to wait until they have the review done that’s underway right now,” says Miller.
Miller says their board began as a group of community members coming together, eventually forming as an official board.
He says during his term on the board progress was hindered by high bids on some tender calls for garbage collection. The bids that came in would have put fees in the area of $300 annually per household he says. They weren't weren’t comfortable with that cost, said Miller.
In an emailed statement to The Packet, the department responsible for municipal and environment says the final plan for the Bonavista Peninsula area is dependent on the outcomes of the review.
“Our goal remains to support the protection of the environment and the delivery of high quality waste management services at a reasonable cost.
“Consultations (for the review) have concluded and the results are currently being considered,” reads the statement. “The department is due to receive the report by Dec. 31, 2019.”
As the Discovery Regional Service Board is currently not operational, they’ll consider the recommendations from the waste management review before the department explores reconstituting the board.
“The regional service boards play an important role in implementing the waste management strategy.”
According to the department, the review includes the broad parameters of the strategy, as well as a number of issues that have been raised by residents and organizations, like: fees for waste management services, the cost of inter-regional transportation of waste and recycling; environmental standards; and associated legislation.