Res #: 9-10M
Number: 9
Year: 2010
Midterm: Yes
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment

WHEREAS the current landfill policies permit household garbage being put in pits then covered with a layer of soil, then adding garbage then dirt, garbage, dirt, garbage, dirt until the pit is full;

WHEREAS the area is then registered as a contaminated site and a new site is developed;

WHEREAS the contaminated sites are prime areas for methane gas and rodent infestations;

WHEREAS burning of garbage is not allowed with the exception of trees and clean lumber; and

WHEREAS the science behind the legislation is primarily based on a feel good source vs. scientific findings; 

BE IT RESOLVED that SARM undertake a review of landfills with the Ministry of Environment with a goal of not leaving a legacy of registered contaminated sites for future generations to deal with.

Response from Honourable Dustin Duncan, Minister of Environment: 

There is a requirement for landfills to be permitted and, over the past four years, Municipal Branch staff have permitted approximately 85 per cent of operational landfills. Although this requirement has been in place since 1985, less than 10 per cent of municipalities had previously voluntarily sought permits or permit renewals.

The Municipal Refuse Management Regulations, under which permitted landfill operations are regulated, addresses their proper decommissioning and monitoring. There is no provision in the regulation for any form of registration of landfills as contaminated sites. Although there may be large quantities of environmental contaminants contained within the boundaries of the landfill cells, their mere presence does not, by itself, present a danger to human health or the environment. The risks associated with any particular site are related to how the site is operated, what materials are in the site, underlying soil types, containment measures, depth to groundwater, and proximity to and drainage of surface water and other factors.

Once a landfill is filled to capacity, there are options other than creating a new site or disposal cell. Alternatives include:

• Use of transfer stations/regional systems (eliminates numerous small, inefficient landfills in favor of fewer, large, efficient landfills);
• Use of commercial waste haulers;
• Implementation of “reduce, reuse, recycle” programs to reduce waste generation, landfill space use and conserve resources;
• Application of technologies to gain or recover landfill capacity such as landfill mining or enhanced in-situ biodegradation; and
• Diversion of wastes to energy recovery facilities such as incinerators, gasification facilities or processes that generate refuse-derived fuels.

Over the past three years, the Ministry of Environment has completed its site suitability analysis of landfills across the province and has increased compliance and enforcement activities, particularly in the area of illegal burning of household garbage. There is a body of scientific evidence that low-temperature combustion of waste generates air pollutants and toxic, carcinogenic and bio-accumulative substances, such as dioxins and furans.

The current cover and compaction requirements are in place to deal with rodent infestations. However, many smaller and remote landfill operations fail to adequately cover and compact solid waste because the necessary equipment is not available or due to cost, which may lead to rodent infestations. While landfills are a potential source of uncontrolled methane emissions, not all municipal solid waste landfills can, or will, generate methane at a rate sufficient to pose an acute risk to human health or be a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. A lack of rotting waste or free water within a landfill reduces its potential to produce methane.

The new Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2010 and the codes of practice for landfill decommissioning will introduce more stringent measures for landfill decommissioning and monitoring. Improved environmental protection measures are already being applied under the current permitting system as applications for new landfills come forward. The ministry has already identified operating, closed or decommissioned landfill sites. Most operating sites have been issued conditional permits and permitted sites are routinely inspected to ensure compliance. SARM is represented in the Environmental Code process by Mr. Cal Jorstad and we look forward to continuing our work with him.