Saskatoon tree pruning company shocked at $275 fee for disposing long logs at landfill

Quill Shiell believes a new policy at Saskatoon's landfill could eventually lead to the spreading of Dutch elm disease in the city.

City charging extra fee for long wood, company worried move will mean more Dutch elm disease in city

Arborist Quill Shiell cutting up elm logs at his yard after being told he would be charged a fee of $275 to dispose of logs over three feet long or ten inches in diameter. (Don Somers/CBC)

Quill Shiell believes a new policy at Saskatoon's landfill could eventually lead to the spreading of Dutch elm disease in the city.

Last month, Shiell, the owner of a tree pruning company, tried to drop off a load of cut elm wood at the Saskatoon landfill. Apart from the general disposal fee, he was told a special fee of $275 would also apply for any wood over 10 inches in diameter or three feet long.

"They have a guy on the hill where you dump, hanging out with a tape measure that measures each log and tells you whether it's within their parameters," said Shiell, owner of Porcupine Tree Care.

While Shiell normally disposes of his waste wood outside of the landfill, elm wood is a different matter altogether. All waste elm wood must be thrown out in the landfill so that it doesn't spread Dutch elm disease, a disease that can quickly spread and kill elm trees in the area.

Rather than pass the extra money on to his customers, Shiell took his wood back to his workshop to cut into tiny pieces. However, he worries that other people won't be so conscientious.

He's already heard of people in the industry seeing elm wood being thrown out in ditches around the city.

"Shouldn't the city be trying to contain that disease?" he asked. 

"Whose perspective are they really trying to work from here?"

Arborist Quill Shiell worries that people will dump elm logs outside of the landfill because of the new rule. (Don Somers/CBC)

City response

However, the City of Saskatoon said it did not believe the policy will spread Dutch elm disease. In a statement, Environmental Operations manager Brock Storey wrote that most households disposing of elm wood will fall under the size requirements and the fine would not be applicable.

Storey wrote that the City implemented the policy for safety reasons for its employees at the landfill. He said that the policy is not new, although enforcement of the special handling fee has recently increased.

So far, there have been two cases of Dutch Elm disease found in the city -- one in the Montgomery Place neighbourhood in 2020 and another in 2015.

If a tree is infected, it is removed, and any elms within a 500 metre bubble will be tested.

It is Illegal to store elm as firewood in Saskatchewan due to the risk of Dutch elm disease.

It's estimated there are more than 100,000 elm trees in Saskatoon, including privately-owned trees, making it one of the larger forests in North America that has been largely free from Dutch elm disease.