By Stephen Petrick
The municipality of Minden Hills is trying to unlock the mystery of how people can safely dispose of mystery snails.
The invasive species is prevalent along long waterways and environment groups are trying to find ways to limit their growth, as they create an imbalance in water ecosystems. A delegation to Haliburton County council last year by the Coalition of Haliburton County Property Owners Association informed of a pilot program, which was encouraging properly trained and permitted volunteers to remove the snails from water and dispose of them.
A report tabled at Minden Hills council’s June 9 meeting said that landfill sites should continue to accept mystery snails, but only if a number of conditions are met.
One condition is that those snails have been harvested by someone with a licence to harvest them.
Another is that they have to be double bagged and in clear garbage bags and they have to have solarized for at least 48 hours prior to disposal.
Residents will be charged fees for their disposal if their bags of snails are in excess of the standard three-bag-per-week limit, which is what councillors had questioned of waste facilities manager Nikki Payne at a council meeting last month.
The issue that the municipality is really dealing with is whether it makes sense to allow people to bring several bags worth of snails to disposal sites. At the council meeting in May, staff were asked to bring a report back to council on whether increasing the cost-free three-bag limit was necessary, given that there was incentive to remove these creatures from the water. But several groups said an increase was not necessary, as removal of snails should be handled by volunteers who have gone through proper training.
“Staff followed up with the CHA to determine how many mystery snails are being disposed of at the landfill, and if a bag limit increase is required,” Payne’s report said. “From those conversations, the CHA has said they do not expect a bag limit increase is required. They informed staff that there are limited people who are licensed to harvest the snails, and those that are often do this for one or two hours per week, and rarely generate one full bag of waste per week. The CHA is appreciative that there is the option to dispose of the snails at Minden Hills’ waste disposal sites and is in full support of the current permissions. They have communicated that they do not require disposal limit increases.”
The report also noted that The Federation of Anglers and Hunters tracks the amount of snails harvested and will inform Minden Hills’ staff on the quantities that are being removed from Minden Hills lakes.
“This will allow staff to monitor the demand for future potential bag limit increases. It is also important to note that the (Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks) was not concerned with small amounts of snails being disposed of in landfill. But they said if quantities were to increase or if a pilot program of sorts was to be adopted, there could be a requirement to apply for additional approvals.”
At the May 2021 meeting, CHA chairman Paul MacInnes reportedly told county council that mystery snails, native to the waters off China, have been in North America since 1892, when merchants began selling them in markets in San Francisco. They’ve since spread throughout North America, into all of the Great Lakes and, in recent years, into the lakes and rivers of Haliburton County.
The snails are large and are most easily identifiable by a trap door they have on the bottom. Their tops are quite sharp, able to cut feet if stepped on, and they are found in shallow areas of lakes.
They also carry bacteria and can be harmful to people not trained on how to dispose of them.