Down in the dumps: Alberta landowner has spent decades surrounded by gulls and garbage

Two landfills set up shop on land next to Doyle Booth's in the early 1990s, and the farmer from Ryley, Alta., has been dealing with smells, seagulls, flies and flying trash ever since.

Doyle Booth owned his property before the landfills moved in, and is still waiting to be bought out

Stuck between two landfills, frustrated Beaver County land owner faces mountains of trash. 2:21

Seagulls and flies are everywhere. Plastic blows into the yard. Animals feast on garbage, and of course, there's the smell. 

Doyle Booth says he has been dealing with all that since the early 1990s, when two landfills set up shop on properties next to his. 

"Just leave your garbage in your porch for a couple days, say a week," Booth said. "You'll have the smell, you'll have maggots move in, the flies, maybe a cat going in there and ripping it up. That's what it's like."

Booth lives in Beaver County, close to the village of Ryley, about 90 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.

"I thought they would move us out of here," said Boyle. "I didn't think people would let people live so close to a landfill."

Flanking his property to the east and south is Beaver Municipal Solutions' class II landfill, which takes in waste from neighbouring municipalities, including Edmonton. 

Across the road to the west, there's the Clean Harbors class I landfill for hazardous waste. That facility is set to expand to the north.

Booth is in between, stuck on 21 acres of undesirable land. 

Doyle Booth lives near the Beaver Municipal Solutions landfill in Beaver County, southeast of Edmonton. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Company is community-owned

The general manager of Beaver Municipal Solutions, Pierre Breau, said he recognizes that no one wants a landfill in their backyard. 

He told CBC the company is working hard to mitigate the impact on its neighbours by applying water to the dust and picking up stray plastic.

"We do everything we can to be invisible," said Breau. 

He said the company is owned by several towns and villages in the region, and Beaver Municipal Solutions gives back to them in the form of numerous grants and dividends.

"We're working for the community," said Breau. "If we have a problem that's related to a particular area that's affecting residents, it has to be dealt with." 

Seagulls fly over the Beaver Municipal Solutions landfill, as trash is placed into giant storage cells. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

Waiting for a deal

According to Booth, discussions with Beaver Municipal Solutions regarding the purchase of his land have been going on for more than 20 years.

He said the company has made offers, but they were too low. He wants them to also include the cost of his relocation.

"Whatever it's cost me to have what I got here, they should have to replace it," said Booth.

Breau wouldn't comment on the negotiations, but said they were being conducted in good faith. 

"The parties involved in negotiations all have the landowner's best interest at heart," Breau said. 

Worried for horses

Booth also worries about the health of his six horses that live on the homestead.

He is concerned that contaminants from the landfill are being transferred to the horses' environment via the seagulls who bathe in the standing water.  

After a windy day, plastic bags are tangled in a fence near Doyle Booth's property. (Doyle Booth)

But while such contamination is possible, experts say it's unlikely. 

Landfills have several techniques to safely handle materials with high pathogen contents, such as human feces, said Daryl McCartney, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Alberta. 

"We actually apply this stuff to agricultural fields routinely, and to my knowledge we've never had a confirmed case of that type of transfer," said McCartney. 

According to Breau, Beaver Municipal Solutions adheres to or exceeds provincial standards for class II landfills. 

"When waste comes here, it goes into the landfill and it doesn't escape."

Water from spring melting pools on Doyle Booth's land. The green building belongs to Beaver Municipal Solutions. (Doyle Booth)

Other neighbours feel ignored

The Janus homestead is directly north of Booth's, and the family is also hoping to sell their land to Beaver Municipal Solutions. 

Cole Janus, 20, said his family approached the company two years ago to start negotiations. They submitted an appraisal of their property, but the talks never went further. 

"They changed their minds and completely forgot about us," said Janus. 

Janus is worried about the family horses. He said dust from the landfill has irritated the horses' eyes in the past, forcing their relocation. 

He's also tired of the inconveniences, like the sound of trucks bringing in their hauls in the early morning. 

"We're constantly fighting with the dump," he said, "either to gain something or to slow them down."

Doyle Booth worries that the health of his horses is being impacted by the proximity to the landfill. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

About the Author

Josee St-Onge


Josee St-Onge is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has also reported in French for Radio-Canada in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Reach her at josee.st-onge@cbc.ca