Chipping away at the problem
Bay Roberts re-evaluating arrangement for disposal of tree prunings
The Town of Bay Roberts is reevaluating an arrangement it has with a local business for the discarding of tree prunings and other similar organic materials. An overwhelming volume of material following the havoc caused by Hurricane Igor has resulted in an unsightly pile of mulch in the town.
The steaming pile of mulch that now dominates the French property just off the Conception Bay Access Road in Bay Roberts is largely a consequence of Hurricane Igor, whose high winds stripped and knocked down trees like they were matchsticks on Sept. 20-21.
But for Gerald French, the pile — and an even larger pile of tree prunings on another part of his property — has been nothing but a nuisance.
“Lousy. It’s the worst job we’ve ever had in our lives,” French, who’s been in business in Bay Roberts for a half-century, told The Compass last week.
Two employees with French’s company have been working flat-out for weeks, trying to keep up with the overwhelming number of trucks that were pulling into the site and dumping their organic loads.
They’ve been feeding the debris — mostly tree branches — through a town-owned shredding machine, creating a growing pile of mulch that now produces a steady swirl of steam. French estimates there’s now 300 to 400 tonnes of the stuff slowing composting on his property.
“It’s only just a money expense,” French said, noting that on some days, as many of 70 pickup loads of debris have been dropped off, with the vehicles coming from all over the region.
It’s slowed down considerably in recent days, and not soon enough for French.
It’s a unique arrangement between the town and the private company. In the beginning, both saw it as a win-win situation. The town needed to address the issue of providing a system for residents to dispose of their tree prunings and other natural wood debris, so it spent some $24,000 to purchase the shredder.
The French’s operate the shredder, and had hoped area residents would purchase the mulch.
But it hasn’t worked out to everyone’s liking. The volume of material has overwhelmed the company, and sales of mulch have been next to zero.
“ We sold $60 worth this summer,” said French, adding that he had hoped to sell enough to cover his expenses.
French plans to combine the mulch with manure this fall and spread it over a 350-acre cattle pasture off Country Road. As for the pile of tree prunings, the town is weighing its options, chief administrative officer Nigel Black stated last week.
Black described the pile as “massive,” and said some of it may be shredded onsite, burned, or moved elsewhere.
The town’s executive committee, which includes Black, Mayor Glenn Littlejohn and Deputy Mayor Philip Wood, plan to meet with French this week to discuss a solution.
“ We did this on a trial basis. Now we’re looking at revisiting it, and seeing if there’s a better way to utilize the chipper,” Black said.
In the past, French used to collect the organic debris from the town and private citizens and — in co-operation with the town — stage a community bonfire in the fall. But that practice was halted after area residents issued complaints about the smoke.
That’s when the town decided to buy the chipper, Black explained.
“ That was our contribution; to provide the chipper so the business owner could chip away so there wasn’t a fire hazard. He was free to charge for the mulch if people were willing to buy it.” French was never sold on the idea. “I told them before they even decided to go at that, that it was no good. But they wanted to go ahead and try it,” French said
Shredding operations were halted last week in order to do some maintenance on the machine, and French is now discouraging people from dropping their tree prunings on his property.
“ We won’t be chipping next year anyway. It’s no good,” French said.
He complained that some people were putting more than just tree prunings in the pile. He said he found fence wire, cable, pipes an even household garbage.
“Council will face the same problem, no matter what they decide,” he noted.
Black, meanwhile, said he’s not aware of any public complaints about the mulch pile.
Gerald French grabs a handful of fresh mulch from the large pile on his property in Bay Roberts. At left is French’s son, Gerard.
The Town of Bay Roberts paid roughly $24,000 for this mulcher, which has been operating at a brisk pace since Hurricane Igor in September.