The Town of Hay River held a public forum on Nov. 28 to provide more information on solid waste management.
Despite a low turnout, the two-hour information session at the Curling Club lounge touched on many issues, such as e-waste, composting, landfill operations and waste reduction programs in the NWT.
Speakers included Dustin Dewar, a civil technologist for the town; Kim Rapati, Ecology North’s Hay River co-ordinator; and Michelle Hannah and Diep Duong, both from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR).
Dewar kicked off the evening by giving an in-depth history of the town’s landfill, and explaining its basic operations.
“The goal is for everybody to take responsibility for their own waste production and you can’t have that happen unless people know how to separate the different parts of their garbage,” Dewar said.
The landfill has been in operation since 1973.
The current practice the town is trying to implement is covering household waste to prevent windblown debris, and to stop animals from infiltrating the site.
“We try and dome the site to get the water to run off, and, once we do that, we cover it, but we’re not under any schedule for cover material just because it’s not readily available,” Dewar said.
In the New Year, the town is looking at using construction waste as covering material, which will alleviate that problem.
The export of goods, such as appliances and vehicles, is expensive but crucial as they take up a lot of space.
Hundreds of thousands of kilograms of steel have been exported since 2010, along with a significant amount of hazardous waste – including a litre of mercury – which had been accumulating over many years.
The heavy equipment operations at the site, combined with the presence of wildlife and hazardous materials, mean it’s not a safe environment for scavenging.
“Landfills are inherently dangerous and produce a risk to human health through injury and infection,” Dewar said. “The town is open to discussions around having a salvage area but has concerns about liability and management of such an undertaking. The most effective way to reduce the waste deposited at the landfill is a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.”
Dewar added that, in 2010, the current landfill site was estimated to have another 19 years of life, provided improved management techniques were used and the export of bulky wastes continues.
Hannah and Duong of ENR emphasized the importance of managing waste.
According to them, the entire population of the NWT produces enough waste to fill up 32 Olympic-sized swimming pools every year.
In 2003, the GNWT enacted the Waste Reduction and Recovery Act, which created a framework to implement programs to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover waste.
In the rest of Canada, those actions are carried out 22 per cent of the time, with 78 per cent disposal, as opposed to an 85-90 per cent disposal rate in the NWT.
The ENR officials also discussed the Environment Fund, which was established under the act to “handle all income and expenses of waste reduction and recovery programs and initiatives.”
That income comes from two operational waste reduction and recovery programs (the beverage container program and the single-use retail bag program) and the waste paper products initiative.
Rapati spoke about a number of composting options and programs available in Hay River, including vermiculture and centralized composting, which has been used in Yellowknife since 2009.
She emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the positive implications of waste reduction.
“Through workshops in schools and public events, such as distributing backyard composters, we’re trying to provide the skills and tools residents need to contribute to waste diversion,” said the Ecology North representative.
by Myles Dolphin