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Otter Lake CMC NEWS - November 2019

Welcome to the Otter Lake Landfill Community Monitoring Committee's November 2019 Newsletter. In this newsletter you'll read more about:
  • Current status of the landfill
  • Otter Lake CMC's Board tour of the landfill
  • Q&A on the Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility
  • Becoming a Master Composter Recycler 
  • A little bit about us
  • Our next board meeting
Update on the Otter Lake Landfill
The Otter Lake Landfill in suburban Timberlea, a world renowned facility, may surpass its best before date. The showcase facility which has been studied by experts from around the world since its opening in the late 1990s has been operating at only a third capacity since 2016.

That’s because all of the commercial trash that it took in over the early years is now redirected to other Nova Scotia landfills. That means that the cells, huge underground storage where trash deteriorates and eventually becomes part of the earth, are not being filled at the rate initially anticipated when the facility opened January 1, 1999.

The facility was to have a life span of 25 years, but now it appears that could be extended by decades.

“Technically it could operate for the next 25 years and beyond should Halifax’s commercial garbage continue to be exported,” says Reg Rankin, executive director of the Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee (CMC).

Initially built to take all the trash produced in the newly created Halifax Regional Municipality, the state-of-the-art facility attracted world attention because no one had ever seen a facility where all garbage was inspected, says Steve Copp, landfill and safety manager for MIRROR, the company that operates the landfill. Ontario officials came to see how a Nova Scotia municipality had achieved such international interest when Toronto was planning to build a facility in Kirkland Lake.

But in 2015 a flow control municipal bylaw, which outlined a requirement that all HRM trash go to Otter Lake, ended with a court decision allowing other landfill facilities in the province to take commercial trash from outside its borders. Costs, in the form of tipping fees at the Otter Lake Landfill, had been a factor in allowing commercial hauling companies to export its waste.

The change meant layoffs, so now the Otter Lake facility operates with only a dozen employees and much of its machinery sitting idle. Now Otter Lake takes only HRM residential trash – a maximum of 6 bags per household per pickup, one black bag and the rest in clear bags.

Copp says the company is now working on cell 7A which has a capacity to hold 450,000 metric tons of waste. The facility now takes in an average of 45,000 metric tons a year. Six cells have been filled since the facility opened. Altogether nine cells have been permitted by the Provincial Department of Environment. In 1999 when MIRROR signed its first contract it was for 25 years. It is now in its 21st year.

“Whether commercial garbage comes back to the Otter Lake Landfill it is vital that the Front End Processor (FEP) and the Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF) remains in place as long as the landfill operates” says Rankin. “This is the unconditional right embedded in the signed Contract between HRM, the owner of the Landfill, and The Halifax Waste Resource Society representing the Community."
Here is the Front End Processor, where your household waste first arrives
at the Otter Lake Landfill.
Tour of the Otter Lake Landfill
On October 23rd, members of the Board for the Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee took part in a tour of the landfill, led by Facility Manager Steve Copp. The tour started with an up close view (and smell) of the Front End Processor (FEP) where trucks dump household waste and every bag is examined and sorted into recyclables, organics, and trash.

250 to 300 tons of waste make their way to the FEP every day - that's a lot of sorting!

Moving on from the tipping floor, we saw the conveyor belts where waste is sorted, screened, and shredded into smaller pieces. From there, we visited the Waste Stabilization Facility where shredded waste is heated up to 55 degrees Celsius to kill germs and pathogens through aerobic composting. After sitting for about three weeks, the waste is then stable, meaning it won't create large amounts of gas in the landfill.

When stable, it is ready to be buried in cell 7A. We had a chance to drive into this cell and see firsthand where the final product is buried. In the matter of an hour, we saw how our household waste moves through the entire process, from the FEP to the landfill.

Did you know - this entire process takes about 3 weeks! Take a look at what we saw on our tour.
Manager Steve Copp, MIRROR, delivering tour to Otter Lake CMC Board Members
Waste dumped in the Front End Processor, waiting to be sorted. The material stays in in the FEP for generally less than 24-48 hours.
Paper and newspaper sorted out in the FEP
In the Waste Stabilization Facility, waste is heated and stabilized
After 21 days in the WSF, waste is stable and looks like what you would find in your dryer trap
Stabilized waste now ends up here in cell 7A. This image shows 7A at the working face before the daily cover is applied.
Q&A - Future of the Front End Processor & Waste Stabilization Facility
The following interview was conducted with Otter Lake CMC Executive Director Reg Rankin and Board Chair Scott Guthrie.
1. Is there a recommendation coming forward from HRM staff for the removal of the Front End Processor (FEP) and the Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF)?
Reg Rankin: I was surprised that, at our last Board Meeting on August 22/2019, the Otter Lake Community Monitoring Committee was advised by HRM staff that they would be once again considering the removal of the FEP & WSF.  It was only a year ago that HRM, through the Landfill Operator MIRROR, formally requested that CMC support the removal of the FEP & WSF to which the CMC Board of Directors diligently reviewed the request and decided it would be irresponsible to endorse the removal. 

Further, the FEP & WSP are provided for in both the Provincial Operating Permit and the Operational Agreement between HRM and the Halifax Waste Management Society (representing the Otter Lake CMC). This decision by CMC was originally communicated to MIRROR and the landfill owner in September 2018.

2. What is the Otter Lake CMC's current position on the removal of the FEP and WSF?
Scott Guthrie: On September 28/19, we further communicated our position to HRM, hopeful that we might dissuade staff from conducting yet another review of the FEP & WSF. This was already done in 2013 with the results of community engagement coming out in opposition of the removal of the FEP & WSF.  In particular, the Otter Lake CMC recently advised HRM that as per the terms of the Operating Agreement between HRM & The Halifax Waste-Resource Society, we must be consulted on any proposed changes to the landfill, including the FEP & WSF.  Ultimately, we believe that removing the FEP & WSF is a non-starter as there is no provision for the unilateral closure of the FEP & WSF by either party to the Agreement - not HRM nor CMC.

3. Why is it important to maintain the FEP and WSP as part of the landfill operations?

Reg Rankin: The FEP & WSP are the defining features of the Otter Lake landfill and are what make it innovative compared to other landfills across Canada. Working in tandem, the FEP & WSP allow us to divert recyclables and raw organics from the landfill and provide for an extended lifespan to the entire facility.  These features are the essence of what makes the landfill unique and have attracted many from all over the world to come see it. 

4. What are the next steps in the discussion?

Scott Guthrie: We expect that HRM staff will present the Otter Lake CMC and Halifax Council with a report shortly. Please stay tuned. CMC staff will provide another update at our Board Meeting on November 21st (see details below on the meeting, all are welcome).

Want to be a Master Composter Recycler?
Halifax Solid Waste Resources has developed a new four-week education program to foster leadership in waste reduction and diversion. The Master Composter Recycler (MCR) program is open to all residents interested in becoming waste champions within their families, communities, and work places. Through training sessions, waste reduction workshops and facility tours, participants become knowledgeable about how waste is managed in the Halifax region, from collection to processing.  

Participants also learn how to reduce waste through backyard composting and other at-home solutions. MCR is new to Nova Scotia but has been a popular and long-standing program in other municipalities across Canada and the United States. The program has been offered twice already in the spring and fall of 2019, resulting in 40 trained leaders who have taken the knowledge back to their communities. It has been very well received by HRM residents, with registration filling up immediately and lengthy waiting lists of eager waste champions!

The next MCR program is taking place in May 2020. For more information, please visit our website at or follow us on Facebook at Halifax Recycles.

MCR Class at Acadia Park, May 2019
A little bit about us...

The Halifax Waste-Resource Society is a registered Society comprising residents of HRM. In 1999, HRM and Halifax Waste-Resource Society entered into an agreement which established the Community Monitoring Committee, which is tasked with overseeing the landfill operations.

The CMC comprises 15 members, including the local members of Regional Council from Districts 11 and 12, the Mayor, an appointed member of Council, 2 council-appointed members-at-large, and the 9 Directors of the Halifax Waste Resource Society.

Our current membership includes:

Council Representatives
Mayor Mike Savage
District 11 Councillor Stephen Adams
District 12 Councillor Richard Zurawski
District 13 Councillor Matt Whitman

Volunteer Members-at-large 
Mike Becigneul, Timberlea

Volunteer Directors of Halifax Waste-Resource Society
Scott Guthrie, Chair, Prospect
Ali Duale, Beechville
Andrew Giles, Dartmouth
Frank Johnston, Prospect
Peter Lund, Dartmouth
Murray Power, Hubley
Tom Robertson, Hubley
Maureen Yeadon, Prospect
Raissa Musial, Hubley

Last but not least...the next Otter Lake CMC Board Meeting

Join us on November 21st, 6:30pm for the next Otter Lake CMC Board Meeting at the Links of Brunello Clubhouse Boardroom, 120 BRUNELLO BLVD (off the Timberlea Village Parkway). Everyone welcome.
RSVP to Board Meeting on Facebook
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