Renfrew — In 2018, when the contract with Beauman Waste Management Systems Ltd. ended and the two received bids to take on the contract were deemed too steep, staff and town council of the day decided Renfrew could manage its own landfill. 

That decision led to operational and oversight errors, a non-compliance report from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), and a two-phase remediation plan that could cost taxpayers an estimated $1.8 million.

“When the town went out to tender for the contract, the two bids received were extremely high, so a cost-analysis was done and it was determined at the time that it would be more cost-effective for the town to take over the management (of the landfill),” explained Amanda Springer, Manager of Environmental Services. 

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t work out very well. 

 According to a report drafted by Ms. Springer last November, “In the summer of 2022 management staff became aware of problematic waste slopes at the Renfrew Landfill. Landfill staff were instructed to alter landfill practices as to not exasperate the issue.”

The town then hired WSP Canada (WSP), an engineering and professional services firm, to assess the situation at a cost of $700-$1,000 an hour. The assessment included two engineers and a landfill operations specialist visiting the site and consultations with a geotechnical engineer. 

The ministry was subsequently informed of the problems and on August 24, 2023 a provincial officer conducted a detailed inspection of the landfill. The final report was released in October 2023 and identifies three areas of the Renfrew Landfill operations being non-compliant.

The first identified issue was that the daily log recordings of the operational issues were not clear. Ms. Stringer reported that this issue has since been addressed through the implementation of a reformatted and detailed logbook.

 The second significant non-compliance issue was that the landfill waste was not being properly compacted, resulting in dangerously steep and unstable slopes.

 In its inspection report, the MECP reported that “At the time of the inspection, exposed slopes and steep slopes were observed…the town identified areas within the waste footprint where fill had occurred to elevations above approved contours, resulting in slopes that are too steep to achieve sufficient cover and compaction. 

 “The steep slopes are also considered to present concerns with the feasibility of removing the waste that is above approved contours, in addition to other concerns with excavating and re-landfilling the waste.”

 In addition, the ministry found that the waste was not being properly covered, reporting that “…exposed waste was observed, and cover was not applied as outlined in the environmental compliance approvals (ECA)” The ECA is a permission that allows municipalities to operate the site with environmental controls that protect human health and the environment.

At the Renfrew town council meeting held last November 14, councillors were provided a copy of the MECP Inspection Report.  A motion to include Phase One of the Landfill Waste Slope Remediation Project in the 2024 capital budget was put forward by Councillor John McDonald. 

Phase one is currently estimated to cost $797,000 and includes $100,000 in consulting fees from WSP, the purchase of a $420,000 excavator, and the cost for hired contractors. Some work will also be done in-house.

Councillor Kyle Cybulski, who seconded the motion, said the issues at the landfill were avoidable.

“This happened due to poor planning and poor oversight,” he said. “We have to make it safe before it collapses or falls. The good news is that it will likely extend the life of our landfill.”

The cost for Phase Two, which is slated for 2025, is more nebulous as the required detailed design and budget have not been completed. The current projection is between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

The two-year project will see the landfill slopes stabilized and re-worked, including revising the final contours, updating the ECA, and buttressing the slopes with approximately 25,000 m3 of soil. The proposed design would see the fill that is currently above the approved contours stay in place, but the slope will be flattened using soil to create a buttress.

The construction of a new interior road is also required to give equipment operators access to the problem area, which is currently sectioned off due to safety concerns.

“The base of the new road has been finished but it has not been completed with a top layer of gravel due to wet weather, but we are looking to have it complete in a few weeks,” Ms. Stringer stated. “A new road in this area has been discussed for years, but was prioritized in 2023 because of the steep slopes.” 

Measures To Prevent Future Operational Errors

While the final cost for the Landfill Waste Slope Remediation Project remains to be seen, Ms. Springer says the town is working to ensure the operational errors aren’t repeated.

“Since the discovery of the steep slope issue, management at all levels have taken action to prevent this issue from occurring again,” she said. 

This has included ensuring staff and management have received training through the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Ontario Chapter, additional management inspections, and the planned purchase of the excavator.

Ms. Springer said staff changes were made following the discovery of the operational issues and the town has been collaborating and sharing information on best practices from other local municipalities. Staff tours of other area landfills are planned for this summer. In addition, WSP will be hired to provide landfill experts to help guide the full planning process. 

There is no set date for the remediation work to be completed.

By Meghan Cross, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 05, 2024 at 18:38

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eganville Leader   Eganville, Ontario
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