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NICHOLAS MERCER: McWhirter’s Lane is again at the centre of controversy

Corner Brook resident Jim Drover does not want a repeat of history at 6 McWhirter’s Lane. He says the fill that is being dumped on the property is contaminated and needs to be removed.
Corner Brook resident Jim Drover does not want a repeat of history at 6 McWhirter’s Lane. He says the fill that is being dumped on the property is contaminated and needs to be removed. - Nicholas Mercer

McWhirter’s Lane has an infamous corner in Corner Brook. 

Some six years ago, it was in the news for all of the wrong reasons after the owner of 6 McWhirter’s Lane began keeping a large number of cats in his home. What probably started out as a couple of animals eventually grew upwards to close to 200 animals.

As expected, the pile of mess started to grow, the stench got stronger and finally action was taken to clear away the problem.

That was in the spring of 2012.

Imagine going through your neighbourhood having your world constantly pierced by the sight of roaming cats, piles of bags filled with waste and what was sure to be a poignant smell.

It couldn’t have been an enjoyable time for them. It's probably one they would rather avoid for the rest of their time in their homes.

Now, imagine having seeing a load of fill being dumped on the vacant property and fearing having to fight another battle. Tthat’s what the residents of McWhirter’s Lane have been feeling since Oct. 15 when a load of fill from a nearby construction project on Old Humber Road was dumped at the former "cat house."

In that fill, Jim Drover observed several pieces of old concrete pipe and black plastic that they believed to be parts of old sewer pipe.

Residents immediately called the city and asked about the placement of what they believed could be contaminated fill.

The city advised them to call the Service NL.

When they did, they were advised that there was zero tolerance for concrete to be used as fill.

That sent things back to the city, which has temporarily rescinded the permit for the owner of the property to dump fill there.

“Once we discovered the concrete in the fill, we asked the gentleman to stop dumping there,” said spokesman Darren Charters.

Before the owner is allowed to continue with the work, the provincial government will need to give the all-clear sign before the permit is reinstated.

In 2018, Derek Brown purchased the property for $10,500 at auction. He said he had a permit to dump several loads of fill on the site for a driveway on the property.

Brown plans to build a house on the site in the future.

He said the fact that old pieces of pipe ended in the first several loads was by accident and the a great deal of the fill was without any pipe.

A number of pieces have been removed from the site, as well Brown said he has made arrangements to remove another piece that was previously not visible.

“To me, this is much to do about nothing,” he said.

A piece of old sewer pipe can be seen covered in dirt at 6 McWhirter’s Lane in Corner Brook.
A piece of old sewer pipe can be seen covered in dirt at 6 McWhirter’s Lane in Corner Brook.

An environmental protection officer with Service NL is looking into the file and will provide the city with the all clear sign when it’s done its report.

Having fill dumped on a property in a residential neighbourhood is nothing new. It’s a common practice for people looking to transform a piece of property to fit their needs.

With that said, what has been going on at McWhirter’s Lane should not be taken as lightly as stated above.

If the residents feel what is being dumped near their homes could cause harm, then who is to say they’re not right to be concerned?

However, such a fevered attempt to seek answers and put a stop to the work might be a bit of a premature response.

You can’t blame them though. A little over five years ago, they went through an extremely trying time in order to get someone to handle the cat problem they were experiencing.

Someone else might let it play out a bit more slowly amongst those who can control the situation.

They’re driven by history and the desire to keep their tiny corner of the city from descending into unfortunate situations of past times.

And, truth be told, if you were in the position, wouldn’t you do the same thing?

“It’s atrocious to go through it twice in one lifetime,” said Drover.

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