Nova Scotia·Q&A

What to know about who's responsible for branch clearing in HRM

The Halifax Regional Municipality is trying to clear up some of the confusion surrounding who's responsible for removing fallen trees, limbs and small branches.

City spokesperson Brendan Elliott breaks down key details to help people clean up from Dorian

Cleanup efforts continue after Dorian swept through the Maritimes on Saturday. (Stephanie Blanchet/CBC)

The Halifax Regional Municipality is trying to clear up some of the confusion surrounding who's responsible for removing fallen trees, limbs and small branches.

The municipality posted the guidelines about tree and branch removal on its website in the wake of Dorian, a post-tropical storm with hurricane-strength winds that made landfall in Halifax on Saturday.

City spokesperson Brendan Elliott walked CBC News through some of the facts.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

If a tree in my yard falls on the sidewalk or street, who cleans it up?

If it falls from your yard and it actually hits the sidewalk or the street, then we will clean it up and get rid of it.

If part of the tree ends up on the right of way, then we're responsible.

We will go out with professional chainsaws and chop it up and ensure that we open up the rights of way again because that's for safety purposes for us.

What if the trunk of the tree is on city property and it falls into my yard, who is responsible for cleaning it up?

If the majority of the trunk originated on municipal property before it fell, then we would be responsible for the cleanup.

We would be responsible for ensuring that tree is taken care of.

What about front yards? How do I know where my property ends and the city's begins?

There is no number I can give you in terms of metres.

Because we're dealing with the amalgamation of several different towns and the city to make HRM, and even some properties were built in the 1700s or 1800s, it's not easy for me to be able to say to you that, for example, 10 metres from the edge of the street is our land and everything else is yours.

My advice to anyone who's not sure of whose property the debris is on, is go check the documentation when you bought your property because that would clearly indicate for you where the land boundaries are.

Tell me about the new street cleaning machine. What is it going to do when it arrives?

We're leasing it from MacFarlands and it's going to be picking up debris larger than our normal street sweepers.

It'll be sort of a heavy duty street sweeper that'll be working its way around the city looking for trouble spots, making sure we're able to pick up stuff we couldn't pick up previously. Once we have it, it'll be working the streets 24/7.

When it comes to cleanup, what is the most common question you're hearing from residents?

The big thing for people right now is what do they do with it once they have it all collected.

We've done our best to try and explain to them that if you could essentially put it under your arm and take it to the curb, then leave it at the curb.

Branches should be tied in armload-sized bundles, to a maximum of 10 bundles. No bundle can exceed 34 kilograms (75 pounds) and no individual piece can be more than four feet long (1.2 metres) or larger than eight inches (20 centimetres) in diameter.

But then there is the larger stuff that people aren't sure what to do with. And what we're telling them is that if it is indeed on your property, then you or someone else must take it to a construction and demolition facility and have them dispose of it for you. But if you take it there yourself, then you'll be paying for it as well.

Any chance these C&D companies might waive their fees until the cleanup is complete?

No, that's a private business and it's up to them to decide what the fees are.


Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.


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