Nfld. & Labrador

Incinerators back as an option as Northern Peninsula tries to deal with its waste

As the region's landfills reach capacity, its waste management board is trying to plot the way forward with its garbage.

The region's four landfills are nearing capacity

The organization managing the Northern Peninsula's waste is looking at different ways to deal with its garbage. (CBC)

The organization in charge of dealing with the Northern Peninsula's garbage hopes incineration could be the way forward, as the region's landfills near capacity.

"One of the things that was suggested we look at was high-heat incineration, and that's something we're going to pursue," said Gerry Gros, chair of the NorPen Regional Services Board.

Gros said there may be some issues to explore with that idea, and the board has hired a consultant to look into the positives and negatives of incineration.

"There are some downsides to that. Apparently the fumes are toxic, and the ashes left behind are somewhat toxic," he said.

"But from what we understand, and we haven't done the research on this completely yet, is high-heat incineration will eliminate a lot of that toxic material."

Less burning: province

The board covers the swath of the peninsula from River of Ponds northwards, and was formed in 2002 as part of the province's waste management strategy. One of the primary goals of that provincial strategy has been to eliminate open burning and incineration on the island portion of the province, except in its most isolated and remote parts.

According to a provincial report from October 2017, 29 incinerator or open burn sites are still in use in Newfoundland and Labrador, with more than half of those in Labrador and none on the Northern Peninsula. In 2004, there were 176 incinerators or open burn sites.

When asked what the province thought of adding a new incinerator to the mix, Gros said "time will tell."

The province wants the majority of the island's trash sent either to the Norris Arm dump site, seen here, or Robin Hood Bay. (CBC)

Crunching costs

A key part of that provincial waste strategy has been for two large waste facilities — in Norris Arm and Robin Hood Bay — to handle all waste generated on the island, with transport systems to be put in place to haul garbage from all other communities to the sites. 

But Gros said as he and the other NorPen board members crunched numbers on the cost of trucking trash to Norris Arm, they couldn't justify it to people living on the peninsula.

"I think the costs are going to be substantially higher than what we're paying now, and I don't know if the residents can stand to afford those kinds of increases," he told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show.

Gros said another option besides incineration could be the addition of a dump site on the Northern Peninsula, on a smaller scale to the facilities in Norris Arm and Robin Hood Bay.

Western Regional Waste Management was set to begin trucking garbage from Corner Brook and Bay St. George to Norris Arm in July — resulting in a doubling of tipping fees — but a dispute over costs with the Norris Arm dump site has meant that plan is currently stalled.

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