Nfld. & Labrador

Western Regional Waste is happy, but Parsons not ruling out changing laws to settle trash talks

Two months after western Newfoundland was supposed to start sending its trash to the province's central Newfoundland landfill, the garbage hasn't moved.

A temporary agreement means garbage will move, but it's not a permanent fix

Environment Minister Andrew Parsons wants both western and central waste management boards to come to an agreement soon. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

Two months after western Newfoundland was expected to start sending its trash to the province's central landfill in Norris Arm, the garbage hasn't moved.

The western and central waste management boards have come to an interim agreement on what the cost should be to process waste at the Norris Arm facility, but Environment Minister Andrew Parsons says if a permanent deal isn't reached soon he may have to change the law.

The two waste management boards came to a temporary agreement on Thursday, Sept. 20 to get waste moving as early as next week.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Central Morning on Wednesday, Parsons said the dispute over the cost of sending garbage to the landfill needs to end.

If we have to change governance of these boards, if we have to look at ways to make this happen, then we'll do that.- Andrew Parsons

"We cannot have a situation where we have a waste management strategy that's not going to happen because two boards say, 'We're not going to agree,'" said Parsons.

"If we have to change governance of these boards, if we have to look at ways to make this happen, then we'll do that. We have a responsibility to our public to do that."

In July, Robert Elliott of Central Waste Management told CBC Radio's Corner Brook Morning Show that his organization had proposed a fee of $80.58 a tonne. Josh Carey, the chair of Western Regional Waste Management, refused to provide specific figures when interviewed by CBC the same week, but said the proposed deal was financially unstable for his organization.

Parsons said he's engaged an independent firm to look at the numbers at both boards to determine a reasonable fee. The answer should be provided to the minister in about 30 days.

Western Regional Waste is happy

On Friday, when asked about the interim deal, Carey said happy is an understatement.

"This allows us now to complete the last piece of the program for western Newfoundland. We now have a fully functional operational waste management system in a way that we had intended it to be," he told CBC News.

"The system was functional previously, however, it was our intent to try to arrive at an amicable solution to the impasse that we were having with central Newfoundland. That has now been done and the waste will run to central Newfoundland beginning Tuesday."

Josh Carey chairs Western Regional Waste Management. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Although the agreement is essentially a placeholder for the time being, there is still work to be done.

"We've agreed to the process that was outlined previously by the minister which involves the engagement of an outside individual consulting firm. That consulting firm will meet with both parties. We will present, I guess, our side of the equation, if I can put it that way," Carey said.

"They will present their side. At the end of the day, there will be a report produced to the minister and then we will take whatever occurs. From there I would assume both parties will meet again with the minister and then we'll have further discussions and dialogue."

Carey would not discuss the price agreed upon in the interim deal.

"At the end of the process when the mediators report comes in, that will help us determine a final number," he said.

Will change legislation if no deal made

What the firm decides will not be binding, and the boards must still mutually agree to the deal.

"The problem we have is that the legislation that is drafted doesn't give me any authority to enforce these numbers or enforce these actions upon boards," said Parsons.

He said he expects both boards to "play ball," but if a deal isn't reached soon, he'll be bringing new legislation to the House of Assembly when it reopens in November.

The landfill at Wild Cove was supposed to have shut down in July, but remains open after talks to send garbage to Norris Arm stalled. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

All garbage from the western side of Newfoundland — excluding a portion of the Northern Peninsula and Ramea — was supposed to be trucked to Norris Arm by October, and west coast landfills were to be replaced with six new waste transfer stations, but that hasn't happened.

"Right now, we have a slight delay in that, but we are committed to making this work," Parsons said. "We're committed to changing how we have waste management in this province and it can work, and it will work."

With files from Central Morning

Read more great stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story attributed the $80.58 fee per tonne to Josh Carey of Western Regional Waste Management. He, in fact, declined to provide specific costs. It was Robert Elliott of Central Waste Management who referenced that specific amount.
    Sep 24, 2018 3:16 PM NT

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