Otter Lake landfill cost-saving changes 'renege on contract'
Residents say cost-saving proposals would break promises made to people in area
A new report recommends several changes to Halifax's Otter Lake landfill that could add up to millions of dollars in savings.
Some recommendations include extending the life of the landfill beyond 2024, increasing the height by 15 metres, changing the garbage system include reducing bag limits and mandating the use of clear bags.
Otter Lake report recommendations:
- Extending life beyond 2024
- Adding another 15 m to height of landfill
- Saving $100M by avoiding cost of new landfill
- Further limits on the number of bags
- Clear bags at the curb
- Green box changes
The city said these and other changes could save $144 million by avoiding the cost of building a new landfill.
Otter Lake is where most of city's garbage ends up — about 140,000 tonnes per year.
Staff also want to consolidate handling facilities at Otter Lake, what it calls a ‘campus model.’
The report also proposes changes to drastically reduce the amount of organic waste that ends up in the garbage and to reduce costs at Otter Lake — which at $170 dollar per tonne are twice the industry average.
Fifteen years ago, a representative community group signed an agreement with the municipality to allow the landfill site in their backyard when no other community was willing to do so.
Ken Donnelly, a consultant for the landfill's community monitoring committee, said the plan breaks the promises the municipality has made.
“That’s reneging on that contract and who knows, maybe this will all end up in court some day because it is a contract they have and staff just refuse to acknowledge it,” said Donnelly.
In fact, he said every major concern raised by the community has been ignored in this latest report.
“Really what they’re doing here is the Toronto-ification of the Halifax waste management system — trying to build the same system here as [Halifax Regional Municipality CAO] Richard Butts built when he was in Toronto,” said Donnelly.
Local residents worry about odours, vermin and water pollution They're suspicious about a council trying try to save money at their expense.
The councillor for the Otter Lake area, Reg Rankin, said he’s troubled by aspects of the report but he doesn’t want to comment further until he consults with the community.
Jack Novack, a municipal government expert at Dalhousie University, said council now faces a fundamental moral decision.
“There was an agreement between the community and the city government about how something was to unfold. It was, in fact, a very strong social contract and now that's being unilaterally broken, or proposed to be broken by the city administration,” he said
The question now facing council is whether the savings are worth the precedent being set.
“The financial issue is an important issue but if we are going to look at things purely through that vehicle — that lens — let’s open it all up and take a look at it,” suggested Novack.
All the recommendations for changing the garbage system will be debated by council on Tuesday.