© Diane Crocker
Don Downer, chair of the Western Regional Service Board, spoke at a Great Humber Joint Council meeting in Pasadena on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.
PASADENA — There seems to be a lot of “we don’t know yet” answers to questions about modernizing western waste management over the next two years.
But Don Downer is confident the answers will be found before the provincial waste management strategy comes online in the western region in 2016.
Downer, chair of the Western Regional Service Board, spoke about what’s been done and what’s left to do as the western board prepares for 2016, at a meeting of the Great Humber Joint Council in Pasadena on Saturday.
His presentation went well over the allotted time as joint council members regularly interjected to ask questions and present concerns over the process.
“I like to leave opportunity for people to talk,” said Downer following the meeting. “This is an important topic and we try to address the questions as best we can.”
Everything from the cost to households, to what will happen with bulk waste, what people can expect in 2016 and the makeup of the board was discussed. And Downer and Jason King, western co-ordinator, relayed what information and answers they could to the group.
Cost seemed to be the biggest concern and right now, Downer said he expects the cost to municipalities will be about $200 a year per household.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said to meet that cost. “But we’re trying.”
Downer noted the $200 figure is one that has been discussed since about 2005.
“Sooner or later it’s going to have to go up a bit.”
Downer also elaborated on what residents can expect in 2016 when the way waste is managed changes.
He said what will happen in households and at the curbside will be the same for someone in Corner Brook as it is for someone in McIvers. Everyone will have to separate waste at the household level.
“We’re looking at a three-bag separation as the most reasonable,” said Downer.
That means a black bag of household waste destined for the landfill, and most likely a transparent green bag for compostables and a blue transparent bag for recyclables.
Only the black bag waste will be sent to the waste disposal site in Norris Arm. As for other waste, construction and bulk items like furniture and appliances, Downer is hopeful that can be kept at the Wild Cove transfer station.
He said the board is negotiating with the Department of Environment and Conservation on that now.
Wild Cove has a 30-metre natural liner and Downer said “there’s every reason to believe that that’s an effective liner.”
With the liner and the fact no leaching has been found around the dump site, Downer said it should be able to retain the bulk waste.
The structure of the regional board was also discussed, in particular an issue with representation that has arisen since the September municipal elections.
Of the 11-member board members appointed by the province in May 2013 six of them either didn’t run for re-election or were not successful in their run.
That meant elections within the sub-regions of the western board had to be held, and while all the positions have been filled, there is still some impact on the board’s operation.
Downer explained that the “old board” members, those appointed in May 2013 are still active on the board until the new ones can be appointed by the province.
Downer said new members can participate in meetings, but to a limited degree.
“They can have a say, but they can’t vote,” Downer said.
Once appointed or sanctioned by the province, the new members will assume a full role with the board and the members they are replacing will withdraw.
Sanctioning by the province could take up to nine months, but with the current situation the board expects it will happen by January.
One of the big questions heard was will the board be ready for 2016? Downer believes it will be.
“When I look at how far we’ve come, both in public opinion and attitude and a whole whack of other things including contracts let with several major consultants and engineering companies, we’ve come light years already,” he said.
“Those questions that you’re referring to, they’re important questions, but they’re not insurmountable. Decisions can be made and will be made.”