Council forgoes Hawk Lake transfer station
By Chad Ingram
When Algonquin Highlands township closes the Hawk Lake landfill in a couple of years’ time, the site will be shut down, meaning residents will need to travel to nearby landfills at Maple Lake or Pine Springs.
Algonquin Highlands councillors discussed the fate of the Hawk Lake landfill during a July 18 meeting.
As previously reported, the landfill has approximately three years left in its operational life, and the small site has been deemed not suitable for expansion. Closure is planned for 2021. During last week’s meeting, councillors needed to decide whether the site would be converted to a transfer station, similar to the one the township operates at Dorset, or shut down completely.
Algonquin Highlands currently operates five waste disposal sites. Along with the Hawk Lake landfill and Dorset transfer station, there are landfills at Oxtongue Lake, Pine Springs near Lake Kushog, and Maple Lake.
“We’ve been talking about the lifespan of this landfill,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “We have known that this day would come.”
Moffatt said whatever decision council made needed to balance finances with what’s good for the public.
The estimated closure costs for the site total approximately $250,000. With ongoing monitoring costs as well as the cost of operations being increased at other sites, a staff report from environmental co-ordinator Melissa Murray indicated the cost in the first year would total approximately $307,000. The cost of converting to a seasonal transfer station was estimated at $409,000, the cost for a year-round transfer station $427,000. The Hawk Lake landfill cost approximately $65,000 to operate in 2018, and going forward, those staff operations will be transferred to other sites. The township will need to continue to pay for monitoring and reporting services at the site, in the amount of $12,500 per year.
Councillors had a lengthy discussion regarding the landfill’s closure.
It is estimated the process for conversion to a transfer station would take two to five years.
“I keep flip-flopping,” said Councillor Lisa Barry. “There’s part of me that really wants a transfer station.”
Barry did say, however, she’d be voting for a transfer station mostly out of convenience for area residents, and did have some concerns about the additional transportation costs and emissions that would be associated with a transfer station.
Operations manager Adam Thorn noted that many area residents who do shopping in Haliburton Village already regularly drive by the Maple Lake site on their way to Haliburton.
“You drive right beside Maple landfill,” Thorn said.
The Maple Lake landfill, the township’s largest, is an estimated 12-minute drive from the Hawk Lake site. Many residents already at least travel to the Maple Lake landfill occasionally, since household garbage and recycling are the only items accepted at Hawk Lake.
“It is limited in what it can take,” Moffatt said. “Is our job to accommodate convenience, or is our job to accommodate the best decision going forward?”
Moffatt also noted issues of safety and liability associated with transfer stations, adding larger facilities were safer to maintain.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux, noting that property taxes tend to increase year over year, was concerned that a complete closure of the landfill may be seen as a removal of service.
“It’s hard to remove services from a community,” Dailloux said.
“It’s not a removal of service, it’s a removal of location of service,” said Moffatt.
According to the report from Murray, the Hawk Lake landfill receives 18 per cent of the township’s total landfill traffic, with more than 55 per cent of that traffic being generated between May 1 and Oct. 1. During the peak season of July and August, there is an average of 82 vehicles per day, and the busiest day of 2018 at the site was the Victoria Day holiday Monday, when 170 vehicles entered the landfill. For the entire year, the average number of vehicles is 42 per day.
Moffatt noted that in Oxtongue Lake there is one landfill, and in Dorset one transfer station.
“In the southern end of the community, people have three places to take their things,” she said.
Moffatt said that down the road, “there could come a time when there’s one landfill in Algonquin Highlands, full stop,” although added that would likely not occur during the lifetimes of anyone in the room.
Factoring in the closure of the Hawk Lake landfill, a report from Murray indicated the remaining estimated life spans of the township’s landfills to be 28 years for Pine Springs, 73 years for Oxtongue Lake, and 88 years for the landfill at Maple Lake.
Ultimately, councillors agreed that shutting down the Hawk Lake landfill and going without a transfer station there was the most logical choice.
“I think closing Hawk and going to Maple makes the most sense,” said Councillor Julia Shortreed, noting that the days of each small community having its own landfill were a thing of the past.
Interim treasurer and former Dysart et al chief administrative officer Tammy McKelvey noted that the township would continue to own the Hawk Lake site, and that it could potentially be the location for alternative waste disposal or waste processing in the future.