Otter Lake landfill survey draws complaints

·2 min read
The conveyors for the front-end processor at the Otter Lake landfill are shown. (Halifax Regional Municipality - image credit)
The conveyors for the front-end processor at the Otter Lake landfill are shown. (Halifax Regional Municipality - image credit)

A community group has written to Nova Scotia's environment minister to complain about a public survey set up by the Halifax Regional Municipality about deactivating the front-end processor at the Otter Lake landfill.

"It took me six times to actually do the survey. I'd get half way through it and it would kick me out," said Scott Guthrie, chairman of the Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee. "And the way it's designed is to support HRM, not necessarily to support the community's feelings."

The front-end processor removes food waste and recyclables from the garbage before it's buried. The municipality applied for provincial approval to deactivate it in September. The Environment Department ordered public consultation as part of the process, so Halifax set up an online survey.

The Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee has serious concerns about the survey, saying it isn't user friendly and is set up to elicit the approval of the proposal.

In an email to CBC, municipal officials said the survey was created by Dillon Consulting, which is familiar with the issues and "presents the identified risks and the proposed mitigations."

According to the email, residents can get hard copies of the survey and fill them out manually, and can also send in comments on the proposal via email or regular mail. The current consultation is open until Dec. 3.

Guthrie said local residents do not want the front-end processor shut down because it prevents odour, rodent and bird problems.

In his letter to Environment Minister Tim Halman, he pointed out that this is the third time in 10 years Halifax has tried to eliminate the sorting process at Otter Lake.

They have "refused to take no for an answer," Guthrie wrote.

Municipal officials have told regional council that policy changes, including the requirement that homeowners put their garbage in clear bags, has led to a significant decrease in the amount of waste going to the landfill.

A consultant hired by the municipality found there was no longer "any significant benefit" to the pre-sorting process, and city officials have said if it's not deactivated, it could cost an extra $2 million a year. The plan involves "pausing" it so it can be put back into operation if needed.

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