/Staff shortages causing delay for landfill plans, road repairs

Staff shortages causing delay for landfill plans, road repairs

By Sue Tiffin

Operating space at the Scotch Line landfill is becoming increasingly tight, but the township continues to wait for approval from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks for the construction of a new transfer station at the site, a delay that was attributed to staffing issues at the ministry in a conversation held during the Oct. 4 Minden Hills council meeting. 

“As you’re probably aware, Scotch Line landfill is quickly running out of capacity in our Phase 1 operation area,” Tara Stephen, manager of waste facilities, told councillors at the virtual meeting. “We’ve worked with the ministry to identify a small area in Phase 2 where they’ve granted us permission to begin landfilling to allow us to continue to operate while we wait for approval for the new transfer station located beside the facility, so that gives us a bit of breathing room and a nice area to work through the winter months when operations become very challenging.”

The new transfer station enables residents to deposit waste and recycling in bins set up near the gates of the facility, rather than driving through the landfill as they currently do. 

Councillor Bob Carter questioned the timeline for the transfer station.

“Was that work not supposed to be completed this year?” he asked Stephen. “Was that not the plan?”

“Our operating plan was to have that constructed this year,” said Stephen. “We have to have approvals from the ministry to construct that. During our initial conversations with the ministry on this project – this started before COVID – in all of our conversations with them, they didn’t see any issues with keeping things moving. Things kind of ground to a halt, with COVID. Our process has not slowed whatsoever, we met all of our milestones for this project, completed our design and operations report, submitted our approvals on time – unfortunately, this is a staffing issue, and there are just no people to keep applications moving through the ministry. We aren’t the only organization in this boat. There are a number of stalled applications with them in both private and public sectors, so, at this point we’re looking to carry forward that project, but we’ve done everything we can on our end to get this complete based on our original timelines.”

Carter responded, “So, at this point, we have no indication as to when we might get an approval.”

“Unfortunately, no,” said Stephen. “We have had communications with them on our application, so we know they have reviewed our application for our completion, which is a step in the process, so I know that it is on somebody’s desk and it has been assigned. From there, it’s really just getting through the technical review and keeping it moving with them.”

Carter noted that there were plans to rebuild Scotch Line Road next year, but that the projects needed in some ways to be sequential.

“So, this delay could cause another delay which is really unfortunate,” he said.

Councillor Jean Neville said she had her “usual question” about the wait for approval of an agreement between Minden Hills and the Municipality of Highlands East that will allow Minden Hills residents who were affected by the closure of the Irondale landfill to use the Glamorgan transfer station, owned and operated by Highlands East. That approval comes from a different branch of the ministry, said Stephen, which deals with approvals rather than compliance issues.

“There has been some communication now with the ministry about that approval for Glamorgan transfer station so we do hope to see a final approval from them in the near future,” she said. 

Mayor Brent Devolin said that a ministerial delegation could be made at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference should the problem of waiting for approval persist.

“It’s not acceptable on a whole bunch of levels,” he said.

Meanwhile, road repairs planned for the Ingoldsby transfer station are also so far on hold due to staff shortages closer to home.

“We’ve had some meetings on site at the Ingoldsby transfer station to look at trying to get those road repairs completed before winter, unfortunately the intent of this work was to do it in-house with our own staff,” said Stephen. “We just don’t have enough staff to do it in-house and many local contractors are indicating that they also don’t have staff or resources to do that work. We’ve got a few more people we’re going to try to connect with and get that rolling, but some challenges with that project for sure, just due to material and staffing shortages. “