News – HWRS

Jason Timms February 25, 2024

Halifax Waste Resource Society Loses Appeal

Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change Minister Tim Halman has rejected the Halifax Waste Resource Society’s appeal to disallow the conditional deactivation of the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility at the Otter Lake Landfill.  [ view / download the minister’s decision ]

The society now plans to weigh its options at the next board of directors meeting.

Mr. Halman also rejected similar appeals from John Cascadden and Scott Guthrie, both former chairs of the Halifax Waste Resource Society and the Community Monitoring Committee. Mr. Cascadden is a member of the current board of directors for the Halifax Waste Resources Society while Mr. Guthrie just relinquished his leadership after five years at the helm.

The minister’s decision is the latest setback by the society and its subsidiary organization, the Community Monitoring Committee, in their campaign to keep the equipment operating. The organizations represent the interests of the communities within a five km. radius of the landfill. They include the Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, Prospect and Hubley area communities

Together the front-end processor (FEP) and waste stabilization facility (WSF) remove and stabilize organic waste found in residential garbage at the landfill site before the rest is buried. Also removed by the FEP hazardous waste products and recyclable waste paper and plastic. The equipment stops the build up of organic waste in the landfill that can lead to explosions in rodent and scavenger bird populations, the circulation of bad odours and other issues. Problems such as road litter are also avoided and the removal of hazardous products helps the landfill steer clear of other potential environmental problems.

The Halifax Regional Municipality, the owner of the landfill and Mirror Nova Scotia. the landfill operator, received conditional approval for their plan to switch off the equipment earlier this year from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change.  The approval is “contingent upon obtaining subsequent approval of a Compliance Plan,” Mr. Halman noted in his decision.

HRM and Mirror Nova Scotia filed their compliance plan with the province, June 29.

The minister explained, “The plan will detail how the facility will achieve its performance targets – compostable waste shall not exceed ten percent (10%) of total amount of municipal solid waste landfilled, by mass; and the recovery of visible white goods as well as dangerous/waste dangerous goods/household hazardous wastes. Prior to the acceptance of the compliance plan all municipal solid waste shall be processed through the FEP, with all organic material being sent to the WSF. Presently, there are no changes in the operation of the landfill.

“While certain designated materials are banned from landfills, these materials will still be received despite the extraordinary efforts by government, municipalities, organizations, private companies, and individuals to divert them for recycling. The current criteria are to insert a target level for banned materials in a landfill approval as a term and condition to improve diversion and mitigate environmental effects over and above those provided for through landfill design and operation.’

The society argued the department’s approved changes will encourage residents to stop sorting their garbage once they realize the landfill has become a truck and dump operation. The minister countered that “Going forward the landfill will be required to meet certain diversion targets in order to allow the FEP/WSF to be discontinued. This should create an incentive for HRM to continue to encourage residents to properly sort and dispose of their waste.”

The minister was satisfied that “The technical review of the application concluded that there would be no off-site impacts or increase in leachate over the designed volume of the cells and no increased risk associated with Dangerous Goods (which amount for less than 2% of the waste and includes Household Hazardous waste). There is no requirement for front-end processing or waste stabilization under provincial guidelines.”

On the sensitive issue of alleged environmental racism with the siting of the landfill close to the historically black community of Beechville, the minister responded, “We recognize environmental racism exists in the province. We are working as a province to address its impacts. The department does not approve the siting of landfills rather we ensure its construction and operation adheres to the Environment Act and regulations. In this instance, we have ensured the terms and conditions in this approval will ensure this solid waste facility operates in a manner, which does not impact the environment negatively.”

Various problems, including an alleged conflict of interest associated with the public survey, were raised by the society in its appeal. The survey was an electronic questionnaire on the HRM’s website, that tested public satisfaction with various mitigation methods to deal with potential problems at the landfill after the deactivation. The survey was developed by Dillon Consulting, the same company that prepared the Closure Review Report on the FEP/WSF for HRM and Mirror Nova Scotia. The alleged conflict was flagged by Don Mills, a well-known Nova Scotia pollster, in a report on the survey he prepared for the society.

The minister stated, “As part of the application, the HRM/Mirror was required to undertake public consultation in accordance with the NSECC Public Consultative process. The applicant followed this process to the satisfaction of the department. There is no requirement for the consultation to be undertaken by a third party or preventing Dillon Consulting from leading the consultation process. 97% of respondents raised concerns however none differed from those already raised or expressed by the Community Monitoring Committee/HWRS. The concerns raised were already known to the Department.”

And on the issue that the proposed deactivation breaks the 1999 agreement between the society and HRM that allowed the landfill to be sited at Otter Lake, the minister replied that “The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change is not a party or signatory to the 1999 agreement. We do not have the authority to enforce the terms of a privately arranged agreement between two other parties. The Halifax Waste Resource Society is encouraged to seek legal advice concerning what options they may have under the agreement.”

The society noted a 2013 resolution was introduced by the PC caucus and unanimously adopted by the legislature committed the government to enforce the 1999 agreement and reject the deactivation of the FEP/WSF. The minister deemed the resolution irrelevant. He stated, “An administrator evaluating the merits of an application to amend an approval, must consider the relevant factors under the Environment Act and regulations, standards and guidelines. This must be done fairly, based on the relevant science, technical and engineering information before the decision maker. Resolution No. 794 was made at a different time and circumstances and does not bind the decision making of myself or an Administrator acting under delegated authority.”



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Your Halifax Waste Resource Society has been preoccupied this fiscal year with the growing erosion of our 1999 agreement with the Halifax Regional Municipality on the operations of the Otter Lake Landfill. The past 12 months have been a challenge and the society expects the issue will dominate the HWRS agenda again this year.

From our perspective, HRM has been chipping away at the integrity of our1999 agreement, which sets out the parameters for the landfill’s operation.

As a signatory to the agreement, the society feels obligated to safeguard the agreement, as best it can, in the interests of residents in the Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, Prospect and Hubley area communities. We know they depend on the society to represent them on matters that relate to the landfill.

Over our strenuous objections, HRM – in partnership with Mirror Nova Scotia –gained conditional approval, in March of this year, from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change to sideline the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility at the landfill. Both processes are cited in the 1999 agreement and they are implicitly connected to the pledge that only “acceptable waste” will be permitted in the landfill. We feel HRM’s actions have contravened the agreement.

The society fully supported the Community Monitoring Committee in its efforts to oppose the application. Earlier on, we also declined to participate in an HRM pilot project to test the effects of deactivation because we felt it would flout the existing agreement.

On another front we were dismayed to observe an HRM elected official repeatedly level unfounded allegations publicly against some of our Community Monitoring Committee personnel – myself included. That incident was mentioned in my CMC remarks as well.

The CMC was setup under the 1999 agreement and its task is to monitor landfill activities. Primarily, its membership is drawn from volunteers in our communities along with a smaller designated group of HRM councilllors.

The actions by one member of the latter group seemed to be aimed at undermining CMC’s reputation and activities, mainly, we suspect, because it took the lead in opposing the deactivation of the landfill’s front-end processor and waste stabilization facility. The councilor in question has been an ardent and vocal supporter of the HRM plan. All this is very troubling to the society and I am certain it will be seeking to restore the harmony and goodwill that up until this past fiscal year the CMC and the society have always enjoyed with HRM.

Here are some of the issues we faced this past fiscal year:

The society was not invited to speak to Council on the proposed changes to the Otter Lake facility’s operations. Only the Community Monitoring Committee, was given this privilege. We found the oversight needlessly discourteous. It is the society, not CMC, which is party to the 1999 contractual agreement with HRM on the operation of the Otter Lake Landfill.

I am sorry to report that this relationship has been largely ignored by HRM in the municipality’s efforts to secure provincial approval for the deactivation of the front end processor and waste stabilization facility.

Nevertheless, the society set out its position in a March 18, 2021 letter to Mayor Mike Savage. We endorsed the CMC’s call for continued operation of the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility. We stated that based on the legal review of our 1999 agreement, any change to the standard of “acceptable waste” as set out in the agreement could only be achieved by mutual negotiations and the consent of both parties. As set out in the agreement, the term, “acceptable waste.’ refers to stable materials, substantially free of putrescible elements after biostabilization.

We told the mayor the society was willing to accept changes to the landfill’s operations, provided they achieved the same level of ‘acceptable waste’ now attained through use of the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility. We also indicated we were open to any proposals that would produce the same result.

We only asked that proposed alternatives be based on the current residential garbage volume of roughly 40,000 tons a year that currently goes to Otter Lake and be capable of accommodating increases in volume in the range of 90,000 tons a year.  That added stipulation was a safeguard, in case industrial and commercial waste, now trucked outside the municipality, return to Otter Lake for disposal. We received no proposals from HRM.

The society wrote to the Premier in February to remind him of a 2013 Conservative resolution that received the legislature’s unanimous approval during a previous attempt to deactivate the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility. The resolution directed the Minister of Environment of the day to reject any requested changes to the operating permit for the Otter Lake Landfiill that involved curtailing the operation of the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility.

At the time, Jamie Baillie, then leader of the Conservative Party, assured us his caucus would “ensure that no changes are made to the current operating permit issued by the Department of Environment for the Otter Lake facility that would downgrade the high environmental standards that are presently in effect.”

It goes without saying, we were disappointed that the present Conservative government chose to ignore the 2013 resolution.

In late April this year, we sent the key official in the Department of Environment and Climate Change, who was administering the HRM-Mirror Nova Scotia application, a copy of the Review of the Otter Lake Consultation Report prepared by Don Mills, an independent consultant and well-known pollster.

The consultation report on which the review was based, evaluated the results of the public survey in support of the HRM-Mirror Nova Scotia application. It had been prepared by Dillon Consulting Ltd.

Mr. Mills took a close look at that evaluation and developed his report. We hoped Mr. Mill’s assessment would provide a reality check on the conclusions reached by Dillon Consulting.

Among other things, Mr. Mills pointed out that Dillon Consulting was the same group that prepared the Closure Review Report for HRM and crafted the controversial public survey. In other words Dillon Consulting had engaged in a professional conflict of interest. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change was cc’d on the letter sent to the senior member of his departmental staff.

When we got the news in late March that the department had conditionally green-lighted the HRM-Mirror Nova Scotia application, we set to work on an appeal to the minister.

We filled it in May and we are expecting a decision by June 27 – a little more than a week from today. However the wait could be longer if the department requires more time.

Are there any questions?

Submitted on behalf of the HWRS. 

Scott Guthrie, Chair

HWRS to Appeal Otter Lake Landfill Decision

The Halifax-Waste Resource Society is appealing the March 22 provincial decision that will allow Otter Lake Landfill to operate without its long-time protections against odour, litter, hazardous waste and infestations of rodents and scavenger birds.

The HWRS represents all residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality, but in particular those who reside within a five-km. radius of the landfill. The society is a signatory to the 1999 agreement with the Halifax Regional Municipality that permitted the landfill to be sited at Otter Lake. The agreement also set broad terms under which the facility would operate.

The appeal will be made to Tim Halman, the Nova Scotia Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

Should any aggrieved individual or organization also wish to appeal the decision, the pdf appeal form can be downloaded here: A $108.95 fee is required to accompany a completed form. The deadline to lodge an appeal on this matter is April 21.

The administrative-level decision of March 22 sets forth the conditions that will permit Halifax Regional Municipality, the owner of the landfill, and Mirror Nova Scotia Ltd., the operator, to deactivate the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility.

The front-end processor opens and inspects all residential garbage arriving at the landfill and removes decaying organic matter, hazardous waste and recyclables such as plastics and paper. The waste stabilization facility takes the retrieved organic matter and renders it inert before it is buried with other waste at the landfill. Decaying, unprocessed organic matter is known to attract rodent and scavenger bird populations and to cause noxious odours at landfills.

The HWRS and the Community Monitoring Committee opposed the recently approved HRM-Mirror Nova Scotia application to deactivate the front-end processor and waste stabilization facility.

The CMC, established by the HWRS and HRM, does community monitoring of the landfill’s operations.

Halifax Waste Resource Society decides to Appeal to the Minister of the DOECC his department’s decision on the HRM Application of August, 2022

Halifax Waste-Resource Society to Appeal Province’s Decision on Otter Lake Landfill.

[ download article here ]

A letter to Mayor Mike Savage

A letter to Mayor Mike Savage regarding the removal of the WSF/FEP

The Halifax Waste-Resource Society has sent a letter to Mayor Mike Savage (click here to view file) responding  to HRM staff’s  proposed removal of the Front End Processor (FEP) and Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF) at the Otter Lake Landfill. 

The HRM Report proposing the removal of the FEP & WSF

The HRM Report proposing the removal of the FEP & WSF (Jan. 21,2021) – and which both CMC and HWRS responds to as provided above. Click here to view the report.