Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce did not mince words in trashing the waste management strategy as it's being rolled out in areas of the province.
His major emphasis is on how it is being handled in western Newfoundland, where it has long been decided garbage will be trucked to the central disposal site in Norris Arm.
This has been a point of contention for years, and Joyce’s message to members of the Great Humber Joint Council on Saturday certainly left the door open for possible changes. The minister said there will be a review of the strategy and independent board appointed to make these decisions. The public and stakeholders will be consulted, he said.
Deer Lake Coun. Elmo Bingle has remained opposed to the plan, which was approved by council representatives sitting on the independent board of the western regional waste management authority.
“From my perspective, they put the right name on it — waste,” Bingle said at the meeting in Norris Point.
“I honestly feel it is a lot of waste of money and a lot of waste of time.”
Joyce’s opposition of the plan goes back to his days in the Official Opposition.
“I agree with you about the whole waste management strategy,” he said. “In my opinion, it wasn’t thought out properly. We inherited this, but we will start the review.”
A contract was awarded to Mike Kelly and Sons Ltd. last year at over $38 million for the construction of six transfer stations on the west coast. Joyce said the review would not impact this work as the transfer stations would be utilized regardless.
He is open to revisiting the plan to transport garbage to the central disposal site. The debate of whether a lined landfill site could be established in western might be back on the table, according to the minister.
“If the study does show it is more economically feasible and it is a better footprint to have one in western, those seven or eight transfer sites will still be used for western,” he said.
Joyce said people on the Burin Peninsula had similar concerns about the transportation costs and impacts. He says a regional disposal site in that area would pay for itself within 10-15 years.
Bingle feels a high-energy efficient incinerator should be placed in western Newfoundland, and that the number of transfer stations being built would not be needed. He said the plan seems to be pushed forward without the appropriate recycling measures in place.
The councilor also said the Deer Lake landfill may not have the capacity to stay open for another year or two.
Joyce said technologies in place throughout the world are being explored. The minister is concerned about the investment required for such options. The $67 million provided through the federal gas tax more than a decade ago has already been spent on other sites.
A $70 million-$80 million investment in waste management in western could also be a tough sell to a government dealing with immense fiscal challenges.