Paying the price for garbage
Cabin owners, those who live in unincorporated areas, paying for collection
It was early January when Gerry Westcott visited his cottage in Spread Eagle, Trinity Bay to make sure the property was OK.
His eye was immediately drawn to the “little baggie” on the door knob. It contained a letter from Eastern Waste Management, explaining that garbage collection services were being introduced to the area on Jan. 4, and that a recycling program would begin Jan. 9.
“I thought, ‘this is interesting,’” Westcott, a St. John’s resident, told The Compass last week.
Spread Eagle is an unincorporated area, located near the community of Old Shop, and is the site of many dozens of cabins. It’s a popular weekend destination, though a handful of people live there year-round.
So when Westcott learned the area would be receiving regular garbage collection, at a cost of $180 annually, he could only scratch his head.
“I said to myself, ‘this is no good for me.’ I’m a weekend user. I generate a half-bag of garbage and I bring it back to St. John’s for my regular garbage.”
The notice further explained that in situations where the road is not cleared of snow, property owners were to bring their garbage to the paved road near Old Shop on collection day, and were responsible to ensure it was properly covered so scavengers could not tear the bags open.
In time, two wooden dumpsters were placed at the entrance to Spread Eagle, and it was quickly overflowing with residential and bulk garbage, said Westcott.
“Every weekend it was blocked solid with garbage bags and overflowing all around it. One day there were three couches piled up around it. There was as TV as well,” he said.
“It seemed to me and many others that Eastern Waste Management was turning our area, which was clean, into a dumping ground.”
About a month ago, Westcott received a visit from a representative of Eastern Waste Management, who delivered a pickup schedule for residential and bulk garbage. It noted that household garbage would be collected at the roadside every Wednesday.
The man also asked Westcott for his mailing address so he could be billed for the service.
Westcott refused, saying, “I don’t use the garbage because I’m not here and don’t have any garbage to give you.”
Modern waste practices
The move by Eastern Waste Management (EWM) to provide garbage collection to what it describes as “seasonal” areas like Spread Eagle, Salmonier Line and Brigus Junction is the latest in a progression of steps to fulfill its mandate of implementing modern waste management practices for everyone in the area from Clarenville to St. John’s.
It’s fair to say the “complex” effort is being met with resistance, said Ed Grant of Mount Pearl, the newly appointed chair of the EWM board of directors.
He acknowledged there have been problems in areas like Spread Eagle, and that EWM is looking outside the province for “best practices” to ensure the service is provided in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
But he said property owners should get used to the fact that this service is being made available, and described the counter arguments as “thin.”
“If I have a summer home in Clarenville, and I only go on weekends, my property tax is not adjusted because I’m not using the services,” he explained.
“I live in Mount Pearl and I have no use for Metrobus, but I still have to pay that portion of my tax that is applicable.”
He suggested that those who bring their garbage to another municipality for disposal are “parasiting off somebody else.”
“The problem this presents is the community he’s bringing it to is then complaining about this this extra garbage that is being brought to their community. They’re then responsible for collecting it, bringing it to the landfill and paying the tipping fee,” said Grant.
“That’s not fair, so we’re trying to balance those two things.”
What’s more, EWM is now setting its sights on residential areas outside of incorporated towns and Local Service Districts, including clusters of homes like those found in Gadden’s Mash, just outside the boundary of Carbonear.
Grant said EWM routinely receives complaints from municipalities about having to pay for the transport and disposal of garbage that is generated outside their boundaries. In many cases, he said, people in these unincorporated areas bring their garbage to a family member or friend inside a neighbouring town.
“What (these towns) want us to do is fulfill our mandate and go into those 15 or 20 houses … pick up their garbage, they’re going to pay anywhere from $160 to $180 per year, depending on location and the number of houses. It’s fair for all. These people are not being punished. They’re being expected to pay the same thing to remove their garbage.”
“The point is that some fees for property is going to come into play, and we’re trying to balance the needs for people who are full-time livyers with part-timers and so on.
“You just can’t say you’re going to opt out. Nobody gets to opt out when you’re talking about municipal related services.”
Grant said the challenge is preparing a direct billing system for these areas, as opposed to sending a bill to a town or LSD, and have it collect from property owners.
“We have a staff to do that,” said Grant, adding, “The system is coming. The question is whether we can refine it to make everybody happy, and we’re working real hard to try and do that.”
The focus to date has been incorporated towns and Local Service Districts, and EWM has now grown to be the largest collector of municipal waste outside of the City of St. John’s. For instance, EWM provides garbage collection to many communities in the Trinity South area and communities along the north shore of Conception Bay, and larger towns such as Placentia.
Municipalities have the option of providing the service on their own, or entering into an arrangement with EWM.
“Most municipalities that actually use our service find it more cost effec- tive than doing it themselves,” said Grant.
EWM is a division of Eastern Regional Services Board, which is overseen by a board of 20 municipal government representatives led by a chairperson appointed by the province. Ches Ash, the deputy mayor of Carbonear, is the representative for the Trinity Conception region.
The board also oversees operations of several bulk transfer stations, including a proposed station for Harbour Grace that Grant said should be open to the public by late summer.
Meanwhile, Grant said a model for collections for the whole region will be in place “in the next 12 months to two years.”
“We’re tending to meet the same kind of resistance when the government decided to centralize the three waste sites. But over time peope have realized it makes a lot of sense for the environment and for people generally,” he noted. “All too often in this province we have been famous for taking it down the road and throwing it over the bank.”
Garbage and other bulk items are seen overflowing from two wooden bins near Spread Eagle, Trinity Bay recently.