Saturday, June 22, 2024

Cost keeps new C&D facility off the table

St. Mary’s residents concerned about illegal dumping

  • June 5 2024
  • By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHERBROOKE — If the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s were to construct a new construction and demolition (C&D) waste facility at its transfer station in Liscomb, it could mean a large hike in residential tax bills for ratepayers. That’s why council has removed that option from the table, a decision that has disappointed a number of community members.

In her report to council during a May 29 committee of the whole meeting, St. Mary’s Finance Director Marian Fraser outlined the estimated effect of making the investments needed to accept C&D waste at the municipal dump. The transfer station stopped accepting those materials in January in order to comply with new provincial regulations enacted one year earlier, a move that is upsetting to local resident Jerry Julien.

“There is a lot of frustration with council over the landfill issue; simply blaming it on the Department of the Environment is unfortunate,” Julien said in an online conversation with The Journal. “I’m one of the frustrated ones with our current council over this issue.”

In January, officials estimated that complying with provincial regulations, when it comes to C&D waste disposal, would cost the municipality as much as $800,000 over the next two years, while warning of the possible significant impact on municipal tax bills.

In the fall of 2023, the municipality contracted an independent engineering company to interpret and design a new disposal cell for C&D debris that would comply with the new provincial regulations.

“At that time a rough estimate was provided of $1,000,000 to design, construct, dispose of and monitor the C&D material. This is based on a cell with a capacity of two years for material storage,” Fraser reported, while stressing that those findings are based on initial estimates.

She explained that, coupled with there being other C&D facilities in the region, “This is why the municipality did not continue the service under the new provincial regulations.”

While acknowledging that “there are many changes happening in this world we live in,” this is one Julien is unhappy with, adding there should have been an interim plan in place, other than have residents take their C&D materials to landfills in Guysborough or Antigonish County.

“Closed until further notice leaves everyone up in the air. There should be at least a timeline and some temporary plans in place,” he offered.

Noting that the regulations are province-wide, Julien wondered how many other municipalities have lost their landfills.

Based on 2024 municipal tax assessments, Fraser explained that a one-cent increase in St. Mary’s residential tax rate would generate $24,003. In order to cover the annual cost of disposing of C&D material - $500,000 – it would require a 20-21 cent hike in residential tax rates.

“Therefore, based on all the above information, it is estimated that a property owner with a tax assessment of $100,000 could see their tax bill increase by approximately $200-$210 per year for the disposal of C&D material,” said Fraser.

She added, “This could be a yearly expense for the municipal operating budget and would also be subject to inflation over the years.”

Julien noted he has sent an email to the provincial environment department’s new inspection, compliance and enforcement (ICE) division, one he also copied to Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow.

“I was just looking for some basic information regarding the changes and how it could affect our landfill and municipality,” he said.

Julien said four-plus months have passed without a reply. He resent the same email on May 19, with more photos of C&D material showing up in different locations in the municipality, but he continues to wait for a response.

“Receiving no replies from either enquiry does raise some red flags for me on how our municipality is being treated by the province on our landfill file. If they (DOE) are making these new rules, then, of course, they should help fund the steps needed to bring the standards up to code,” he said.

The municipal transfer station in Liscomb, which has new hours, is open every Monday – except holidays – and every second Saturday.

Julien suggested that reduced hours for dropping off bagged garbage, metal and other items is resulting in more trash being thrown into the woods and left on back roads.

With only one person on-site, Julien said it appears to be understaffed.

“Not acceptable in today’s world with the environmental regulations currently in place,” he told The Journal. “The garbage and recycle items along the roadsides in our municipality is excessive to say the least.”

Julien shared that he covered approximately 12 kilometres this spring collecting garbage, including approximately 2700 items (half were NSLC products). He donated the $135 he collected for the recyclables to the food bank.

Council has acknowledged the loss of C&D waste disposal, but also indicated it has done its best to weigh available options, settling on one that does not financially impact those who may never use the service.

As for those dumping waste into wooded areas and on side roads, “Dumping waste in the woods was illegal even before the C&D waste issue happened,” said Deputy Warden James Fuller, “and it’s still illegal now.”

When asked what a possible solution might be to that problem, if it continues, Fuller replied, “Maybe it’s time to up the fines … like they did for illegal burning.”