DEER LAKE Representatives of the Western Hills Regional Waste Management Committee say they want answers and they’re willing to demonstrate to find them.
Committee members hope to include members of other regional committees and municipal politicians as they plan to hold a gathering to let the public know that they are not happy with how discussions are going.
The problems stem from the province’s plan to streamline the provincial waste management system to include either two or three large dumping facilities in the eastern, central and possibly the western part of the island. Local regional dumping facilities are scheduled to close by the end of this year, with Deer Lake’s waste site set to become a regional site for towns as far away as Trout River until 2016, when the plans call for either a new, large waste site on the west coast or for the garbage to be trucked to the central location.
Given the uncertainty of the future site, Roger Barrett, Western Hills committee member from Reidville, said they need to hear some answers.
The Reidville councillor said there seems to have been a change in direction from the Western Regional Waste Management committee when it voted to remove a transportation subsidy. The Western Hills group found out about the action during a meeting in Woody Point last week.
“The feeling was that we had our legs cut out from beneath us,” said Barrett. “We felt that if the government decided that they wouldn’t have a west coast site, then they’d at least have a subsidy to offset those transportation costs, because everybody knows there’s going to be a cost to transport garbage.”
Barrett said the purpose of a demonstration is to try to inform the public. He said simply holding organized public meetings is not always the best way because not many people would show up.
“The only way someone would take notice is if they see their taxes go up,” he said. “If we’re able to organize a demonstration, we’re getting in touch with all other sub regions and try to bring it to the forefront even further.”
Representatives of local communities have stated in the past that they too are confused by the process. Howley Mayor Calvin Samms said his community, like others, are supposed to be closing its waste facility site by the end of this year, in spite of the fact that Howley’s site could last another few years.
Samms said he doesn’t agree with transporting garbage at all, and he wondered if the promise of recycling and sorting will still be kept.
“I thought this was supposed to include sorting, with nothing going into the landfill, that’s how we understood it when they first started talking about it,” said Samms. “If they’re just going to bury it, why not do it here? Our dump is still good for another 100 years.”
Samms said the amount of taxes that are proposed per household doesn’t seem to stay at the same level. He had heard a rate of $130 per household at first, then he said it was increased.
“They way I see it, it could be closer to $400 in my opinion,” Samms said. “They can’t give us a satisfactory cost.”
Western Regional Waste Management chairman Don Downer said a transportation subsidy has not been taken off the table. A motion last year linked the request from the province on what they called a transportation solution, to the decision of western waste going to a central location, he said.
“In other words, to go to central was contingent on having that subsidy in place,” he said. “This new motion last June, separated the two ideas, it took away the contingency of going to central from the idea that government provide a subsidy but did not remove the request. They’re just as adamant about it, they’ve just separated the two ideas.”
Downer said there is no guarantee that the province will provide anything and all he can do is make requests on behalf of the committee. Also, he said, as chair of the committee, he is obligated to do what that the committee wants as he does not get to vote.
Sorting the garbage, he said is actually still a major part of the plan, with the province becoming very aggressive on both wet and dry waste. Composting will be moved forward, and the less that has to go into a landfill as far as he’s concerned, the better.
As far as rising fuel costs, Downer said the price of fuel is being taken into consideration by those responsible for the project and it is always a concern. He said he resents the implication that things are being kept from the public.
“We’re just following a strategy here and attempting to make sure that smaller waste sites close out in favour of sites like Deer Lake and Wild Cove to be utilized for the interim period up to 2016,” he said. “We’ve had a public website up where we post both positive and negative things about this, we do a whole range of releases, newsletters go out to every community, people can read whatever they want, there’s really nothing to hide.”