Dukes of hazardous waste
By Chad Ingram
Published Dec. 7, 2017
It is becoming abundantly clear, as clear as the bags in which we’re all supposed to deposit our household waste, that there are issues with the management of the Scotch Line landfill in Minden Hills.
Last week, the township received a provincial officer’s order from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regarding the state of the facility.
It was the second such order the township has received in the past six months. Readers may recall the first one, issued in the spring, was about the amount of leachate on the property, attributed, at least partially, to a construction and demolition pile that, at that time, was roughly the size of a small country.
This time, it’s for an unpermitted amount and improper storage of hazardous waste materials – things like compressed gas tanks, car batteries, lightbulbs and paint cans.
Not only did the number of these items exceed the permitted limit for the temporary storage of hazardous materials, but in many cases, they were stored improperly – car batteries just sitting on the ground, subject to the elements, rather than sitting on pallets and covered from the rain, as they are supposed to be.
While the infractions were first noted by ministry staff in mid-October, it seems that, despite numerous requests from the ministry to clean up the materials, the township failed to do so. For weeks on end. Failure to heed these requests eventually resulted in the order, which was issued Nov. 30 and gave the township until Dec. 6 to bring conditions into regulation.
At a special council meeting held Monday to address the order, there was a lot of talk about how times have changed. Yes, they have, and maybe the ministry is enforcing regulations more strictly than it has in the past. That’s irrelevant. The township is in no position to bargain or haggle with the ministry over instructions it is given. It must follow them, or face the possibility of fines. That’s it. That’s how it works.
A training day, something that is very obviously required, is scheduled for next week. The township needs to start making operational changes for the handling of hazardous waste immediately. This will entail hosting more days at the landfill when the materials are accepted. Currently, household hazardous waste days are held mostly during the cottaging season. It must increase the number of times it ships the materials from Scotch Line, to keep quantities below the permitted threshold.
As was mentioned by the mayor during the meeting, perhaps it is also time for council to consider the construction of buildings to house the materials, meaning greater quantities could be stored on-site. Perhaps it is also time for the township to invest in cameras, to catch those who choose to dump hazardous waste at the gates of the landfill.
By the way, if you are reading this and are dumping hazardous materials at the gates of the landfill, stop it.
All of these things will cost money, but at least some of them need to happen. And they need to happen soon.