Some residents call council-approved changes to Otter Lake landfill a 'betrayal'

·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)

Some people in the Halifax-area communities of Timberlea, Lakeside and Beechville feel a decades-old promise has been broken by regional council.

Last week, council voted to approve ending the process of sorting and separating organics and recyclables from the garbage bags sent to the Otter Lake landfill.

An agreement made in 1999 ensured the waste processing facility would include a front-end processor and waste stabilization facility. These processes make sure no organic garbage goes into the landfill by breaking open bags to sort garbage and composting organics.

The processor and stabilization facility were crucial to the surrounding communities' agreement to host the landfill because they mitigated the risks of pests, environmental degradation and smells.

"The community had been promised by the city that as long as the facility was in order like that, these two processes ... would remain," Iona Stoddard, the councillor for Timberlea, said in an interview Monday.

A staff report from last month, however, said those processes are no longer needed. Council voted last week to file an application to the provincial Environment Department, asking for the processor and the stabilization facility to be deactivated.

Fewer organics going to landfill

The report stated less organic waste is headed to the landfill and the facilities have become redundant since the municipality adopted clear bags and began exporting commercial waste outside the region.

Stoddard said she is most worried about the potential environmental impacts without the sorting processes. She said more methane gas will be produced, and chemicals from things like batteries could be going straight into the landfill.

She said the location of the landfill and the push to get rid of the processor and stabilization facility are more examples of environmental racism in Nova Scotia.

"We have a historic Black community in this district ... in Beechville. And it just proves that there is environmental racism because it's in their backyard," Stoddard said.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Scott Guthrie, chair of the Otter Lake community monitoring committee, said he feels council is breaching trust.

He says alongside the written agreement, there were verbal agreements at the time that the processor and stabilization facility would remain as long as the landfill was open.

"The only reason why this landfill was put in was with a safeguard for these communities to have these environmental protections in place," Guthrie said.

"So it's a betrayal, a betrayal to the communities."

A spokesperson for the Environment Department said the municipality's application will be reviewed and evaluated when it is submitted.

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