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Public meeting presents options for Canora’s future solid waste management

On August 20, residents were told that change is definitely coming for Canora’s solid waste management system. The only thing to be determined is what that change will be.

On August 20, residents were told that change is definitely coming for Canora’s solid waste management system. The only thing to be determined is what that change will be.

Addressing the meeting were Nicholas Huyter and Spencer Smith, engineers with Tetra Tech Canada. Huyter is a regulatory expert and former site environmental protection officer with the Saskatchewan ministry of environment. Smith is an experienced project manager for over 10 landfills throughout western Canada, an expert in landfill design and construction cost estimates and specializes in solid waste management with Tetra Tech.

They told those in attendance that they are working on a feasibility study for the Town of Canora to look at future options and make a decision on which one to pursue.

The feasibility study became necessary because the situation regarding solid waste management is changing in Saskatchewan. Even though Saskatchewan has more landfills per capita than anywhere in Canada, that number has dropped from over 500 in 2013 to approximately 195 in 2018.

Due to new knowledge and awareness, past waste management standards such as the ones used to design Canora’s present waste management system no longer apply. The Saskatchewan ministry of environment is applying pressure for older landfill systems to be updated or replaced.

Huyter said unfortunately these updates require many more environmental controls than in the past. These changes come with increased cost, raising the pressure on small towns such as Canora.

Part of the feasibility study is an environmental site assessment of Canora’s present landfill. Ongoing monitoring of groundwater wells will indicate whether the landfill is having a negative impact on Canora’s groundwater, and whether that impact is increasing, decreasing or remaining relatively constant.

Huyter and Smith handed out a three-part public opinion survey, to get feedback from those in attendance as another tool in helping determine the best course of action for Canora town council.

Part one asked for the respondent’s level of satisfaction with Canora’s current solid waste services, including: landfill customer service, landfill tipping rates (costs), landfill aesthetics, garbage collection, recycling service, options for disposing of organic wastes such as food scraps and lawn clippings, options for disposing of waste such as old furniture and appliances and options for disposal of hazardous waste such as oil, paint and other chemicals.

Part two focused on the level of importance to the respondent of various waste management options including: hazardous household waste days where material can be dropped off at a central location, bulky waste collection days where furniture and other large items can be left on their front steps to be collected, composting at the landfill or backyard composting, garbage and recycling collection for business, recycling collection services and garbage collection.

Part three dealt with the priorities of the respondent when it comes to waste management practises. Options presented included: reducing environmental impact, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing waste management solutions that support the local economy, preventing organics and recyclables from going into the garbage stream, decreasing the amount of garbage sent to the landfill and keeping the cost of waste management services as low as possible.

During the meeting, the presenters were asked what will happen to the waste in the Buchanan landfill, which is now closed. The response was that, like every other closed landfill, its situation will be handled according to its own unique circumstance. But there is a good chance at some point the site will be reclaimed by installing a cover or a liner to keep water from getting to the waste as much as possible. If water did get to the waste it could cause leachate, water contaminated with waste from the site, to get into nearby groundwater and cause problems.

Canora’s present waste management system includes:

• local landfill for disposal, every other week garbage collection

• curb-side recycling, blue bins, every-other-week single-stream recycling collection 

• public depot and private business drop-off collection services for different materials, SARCAN, clothing re-use drop-off bins, used oil recycling

• minimal programs to support diversion including concrete segregation and household waste day.

Huyter said the feasibility study has narrowed the process down to the four best options for the future of Canora’s solid waste management.

Option 1- Landfill

The main advantages of having a Canora landfill would be: control over waste management, potential revenue if cards are played right, jobs (manager, operators, scale attendant) and it would share the liability of the current landfill.

The main disadvantages are: it requires engineering controls and environmental systems ($$$$$), new cell construction would be needed every three to eight years, a potentially long liability period and the landfill would have a ‘true’ cost of approximately $200/tonne.

Option 2- Direct Haul

The advantages of using a direct haul system are: no operational or regulatory concerns, minimal liability, the town can haul waste or contract out, and minimal capital cost.

The disadvantages include: haul costs ($$$$) in addition to tipping fees, limited haul distance (likely around 80 km at the most), and a basic level of service for rate payers. Working with the Parkland Regional Landfill would involve joint authority and cost sharing, while working with the Yorkton Landfill would result in no control over Canora’s solid waste management. Huyter said direct haul would make it very difficult to “haul your own waste.”

Option 3- Transfer Haul

In a transfer haul system, waste is accumulated in a dedicated transfer station facility and then loaded on trucks designed for longer hauls.

The advantages would be: regulatory concerns would be minor, minimal liability, gain access to a larger market, reduced haul costs, can offer high level of service and some jobs (operators, manager).

Disadvantages would include: still dependent on an external landfill, operational considerations (transfer station) and moderate capital cost (facility, equipment).

Huyter said one thing to consider would be that accepting external waste in Canora could be a good revenue stream and might make the transfer haul option more attractive.

Option 4- Combined Direct Haul and Transfer Station

In a combined system of direct haul and transfer station, the advantages would be similar to those of the direct haul. Other advantages could include local public drop-off services, a transfer station built according to needs and possibly a range of other services.

The disadvantages would be similar to those in a direct haul system, but with an initial capital cost that could be based on the level of service.

Those in attendance and other Canora residents are asked to provide their feedback to town council regarding these options.

Huyter and Smith asked attendees to share words or phrases describing their future vision of solid waste management for Canora.

Replies included: keep costs down, be sustainable, follow compliance rules and reduce waste, possibly by instituting financial incentives for creating less garbage.

Approximately a dozen people attended the meeting. The majority were in agreement that the only way more people will show an interest in waste management is when it starts impacting them financially.

Huyter and Smith said Canora’s solid waste management feasibility study is expected to be completed this fall. Anyone with additional comments or requests for information is asked to please contact the town office.