Otter Lake Public Consultation

Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility

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Last updated: June 29, 2022

On March 22, 2022, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) issued an updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake allowing the Front End Processor (FEP) and Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF) to be deactivated, provided that the municipality and the Otter Lake Waste Processing and Disposal Facility Operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Ltd. (Mirror), submit to NSECC a Compliance Plan.

The Compliance Plan must address several requirements, including measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal – complete with compliance checks – to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent. Additionally, there are requirements related to removing recyclable white goods, bulky items and household special waste when “visible and can be safely removed.” 

On June 29, 2022, the municipality and Mirror submitted a Compliance Plan to NSECC. Read the Compliance Plan here.

As part of the Compliance Plan, the municipality and Mirror completed a waste audit in May 2022. This audit included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste overall was 8.01 per cent, which is below the 10 per cent performance target as set out by NSECC.

Three additional waste audits are planned quarterly for the remainder of 2022/2023. To account for variation in sample results, all four waste audits are needed to fully assess compliance with the performance target of 10 percent.

As outlined in the Compliance Plan, during the summer of 2022, the municipality will be launching a new public education campaign, Food Isn’t Garbage, focused on reducing and diverting compostable waste. Additionally, during the fall of 2022, a new Compostable Waste category will be added on the education rejection stickers to bring focus to rejecting residential garbage containing excessive compostable waste.

It is anticipated that the NSECC review of the Compliance Plan could take up two to three months, and that revisions to the Plan may be required. Once the Compliance Plan has been accepted by NSECC, deactivation of the FEP/WSF can proceed.

Further information can be found in the FAQ below. This web page will continue to be updated as further information becomes available.

Background

The Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility (Otter Lake) was commissioned in 1999 and included the Front End Processor (FEP) and Waste Stabilization Facility (WSF).

The FEP consists of mechanical equipment that processes bagged garbage. The main function of the FEP is to separate and send organics containing waste to the WSF for biostabilization (treatment similar to composting) prior to landfilling, to mitigate landfill nuisance factors such as odours and attraction of birds.

The FEP/WSF was developed at a time when only approximately five per cent of waste materials were diverted from landfill disposal and prior to the implementation of the municipality’s green cart program that diverts food waste from landfill disposal. Today, the municipality is a national leader in diverting waste from landfill disposal. This includes a successful green cart program that recovers the majority of food waste and converts it into compost.

Given the change in composition of waste being landfilled since the late 1990s, as well the success of the municipality’s solid waste program, the municipality believes that the FEP/WSF could be ‘deactivated’ — paused and able to resume operations if required — with waste directly landfilled without pre-processing, similar to all other landfills in Nova Scotia, while continuing to operate Otter Lake in an environmentally sound manner with no impacts to the local community.

In 2013, Stantec completed a Waste Resource Strategy Update on behalf of the municipality and concluded that the municipality should deactivate the FEP/WSF. SNC Lavalin completed a peer review and concurred with Stantec’s findings. Dillon Consulting prepared a Closure Review report that found that the FEP/WSF operations could be deactivated with no adverse impacts on the local community and environment.

On July 20, 2021, Regional Council accepted staff recommendations, including to submit an application to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) to deactivate the FEP/WSF. View the staff report here The application was submitted to NSECC on August 26, 2021.

Upon submission of the application to deactivate the FEP/WSF, NSECC requested that the municipality and site operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., conduct public consultation for the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, and Prospect, located within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

Public Consultation

The public consultation process ran from November 3, 2021, to December 6, 2021. While this public consultation was targeted to residents within five kilometres of the Otter Lake facility, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide feedback.

Following the conclusion of the public consultation process, a public consultation review report was developed by Dillon Consulting Ltd., which documented the results of the public consultation program. On January 24, 2022, the report was submitted to Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) as part of the application requirement. Read the full report here.

The consultation report provided to NSECC contained all survey responses, letters, emails, and social media comments received throughout the consultation process from both residents within, and outside, a five-kilometre radius. As NSECC specifically requested public consultation amongst residents within a five-kilometre radius of the Otter Lake facility, the report emphasized feedback received from those residents with detailed analysis, while providing a general analysis for responses received from outside the five-kilometre radius.

Through public consultation, it was determined that respondents had concerns with the mitigation measures to be implemented should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The review report concluded that the concerns raised by respondents are addressed through identified mitigation measures, including environmental control measures. A full list of mitigation measures can be found in the FEP/WSF Closure Review report. The municipality remains committed to increasing the understanding and awareness among residents on mitigation measures in use.

Key findings from the Public Consultation

The key findings from the public consultation, that ran from November 3, 2021 to December 6, 2021, are listed below:

Impact on waste collection vehicle traffic

During the public consultation process, concerns were raised about an increase in waste collection vehicle traffic both off-site and in the local communities. As outlined in the FEP/WSF Closure Report, there is no anticipated increase to off-site waste collection vehicle traffic should the FEP/WSF be deactivated.  As a result of collection vehicles directly tipping their waste loads at the landfill disposal area as opposed to tipping their waste loads in the FEP.  Additional information concerning waste collection traffic can be found in the FEP/WSF Closure Report.

Residents were also concerned about an increase to litter off-site due to increase waste collection vehicle traffic. As outlined in the FEP/WSF Closure Report, off-site litter is not anticipated, should the FEP/WSF be deactivated.  There will be no change to the quantity waste collection vehicles on public roadways. Additionally, the municipality regularly conducts routine Highway 103 litter cleanups as part of landfill operations. On-site mitigation measures include the use of portable fencing and litter collection and removal efforts by site personnel.

Impact on odour

During the public consultation process, residents raised concerns about the possibility of an increase to odours. As outlined in the FEP/WSF Closure Report, the proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is not anticipated to cause any on- or off-site odour issues. The landfill gas collection and treatment system (the primary environmental control to mitigate odours at the landfill) would not be impacted by deactivating the FEP/WSF. The use of the landfill gas collection treatment system and other odour mitigation measures would continue with no changes should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. Complete mitigation measures can be found in the FEP/WSF Closure Report.

Impacts to groundwater and surface water

During the public consultation process, residences raised concerns about negative impacts on both groundwater and surface water quality, should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. Currently, the FEP/WSF provides no protection to groundwater or surface water resources, therefore, groundwater and surface water quality would not be impacted by the deactivation of the FEP/WSF. 

The primary environmental control for groundwater protection is the use of double composite liner, located at the base of the landfill, which prevents contaminated water from migrating into groundwater. The primary environmental control for surface water runoff is the use of two stormwater management ponds, which treat sediment-laden water prior to discharge to the natural environment. 

Additionally, all current environmental monitoring programs that evaluate the performance of groundwater and surface water protection measures would continue, should deactivation be approved. 

Complete mitigation measures can be found in the FEP/WSF Closure Report.

Impact on birds at landfill

During the public consultation process, concerns were raised about an increase of birds around the landfill and surrounding area should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is anticipated to have some on-site impact related to the attraction of birds, however, there would be no off-site impacts for the local communities. On-site mitigation measures include the use of control measures such as falconry services and noise makers such as whistler flares. It’s important to note that Otter Lake is one of the only landfills in Nova Scotia to employ regular, multi-faceted mitigation measures for the attraction of birds. Complete mitigation measures can be found in the  FEP/WSF Closure Report.

Additional key findings from the public consultation

Residents were concerned about honouring the original community agreement, Agreement for Community Monitoring of Solid Waste Facilities. There is concern that removing the FEP/WSF would violate the original 1999 agreement between the municipality and the Halifax Waste Resource Society. This agreement outlines that only “acceptable waste”, including waste that has been biostabilized through the FEP/WSF, shall be landfilled. At that time only five per cent of municipal waste was diverted from landfill disposal. Since then, the municipality has become a national leader in waste diversion and source separation programs. As such, most of the waste delivered to and disposed of at Otter Lake meets the “acceptable waste” requirement and there is no further benefit or community protections in the biostablizing process the FEP/WSF provides.

 A full list of mitigation measures can be found here

FAQ

What’s happening?

On July 20, 2021, Regional Council approved a recommendation to submit an application to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) to deactivate the Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) at the Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility. Deactivating the FEP/WSF amounts to pausing its operations, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required.

Upon submission of the application to deactivate the FEP/WSF, NSECC requested that the municipality and site operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., conduct public consultation for the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, and Prospect located within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility. 

The consultation process ran from November 3, 2021 to December 6, 2021. While this public consultation was targeted to residents within five kilometres of the Otter Lake facility, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide feedback.

A public consultation report was developed, outlining the results of the public feedback. The report was submitted to NSECC as part of the application requirement. See the Closure Review report here.

On March 22, 2022, NSECC issued an updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake allowing the FEP/WSF to be deactivated, provided that the municipality and Mirror submit to NSECC a Compliance Plan. The Compliance Plan must address several requirements, including measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal – complete with compliance checks – to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent. Additionally, there are requirements related to removing recyclable white goods, bulky items and household special waste when “visible and can be safely removed.” 

On June 29, 2022, the municipality and Mirror submitted a Compliance Plan to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC). Read the Compliance Plan here.

As part of the Compliance Plan, the municipality and Mirror completed a waste audit in May 2022. This audit included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste overall was 8.01 per cent, which is below the 10 per cent performance target as set out by NSECC.

Three additional waste audits are planned quarterly for the remainder of 2022/2023. To account for variation in sample results, all four waste audits are needed to fully assess compliance with the performance target of 10 per cent.

As outlined in the Compliance Plan, during the summer of 2022, the municipality will be launching a new public education campaign, Food Isn’t Garbage, focused on reducing and diverting compostable waste. Additionally, during the fall of 2022, a new Compostable Waste category will be added on the education rejection stickers to bring focus to rejecting residential garbage containing excessive compostable waste.

It is anticipated that the NSECC review of the Compliance Plan could take up two to three months, and that revisions to the Plan may be required. Once the Compliance Plan has been accepted by NSECC, deactivation of the FEP/WSF can proceed.

What if the province doesn’t approve the Compliance Plan?

The municipality will continue to update and resubmit the Compliance Plan until approved by Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC).

Can I see the compliance plan?

Yes, the Compliance Plan can be seen here.

How does the municipality plan to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent of the composition of incoming residential waste consisting of banned compostable waste?

The Compliance Plan outlines how the municipality and Otter Lake facility operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., will meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent of the composition of incoming residential waste consisting of banned compostable waste (such as food waste, leaf and yard waste, paper and cardboard).

As part of the Compliance Plan, the municipality and Mirror completed a waste audit in May 2022. This audit included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste overall was 8.01 per cent, which is below the 10 per cent performance target as set out by Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC).

Three additional waste audits are planned quarterly for the remainder of 2022/2023. To account for variation in sample results, all four waste audits are needed to fully assess compliance with the performance target of 10 per cent.

As outlined in the Compliance Plan, during the summer of 2022, the municipality will be launching a new public education campaign, Food Isn’t Garbage, focused on reducing and diverting compostable waste. Additionally, during the fall of 2022, a new Compostable Waste category will be added on the education rejection stickers to bring focus to rejecting residential garbage containing excessive compostable waste.

Does the municipality need to meet the 10 per cent target for compostable waste received in the waste stream for the FEP/WSF to be deactivated?

No. The municipality does not need to meet the 10 per cent target for the FEP/WSF to be deactivated.

As part of the Updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) required the municipality to identify in the Compliance Plan measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent.

Can you tell me more about the public consultation?

On July 20, 2021, Regional Council accepted staff recommendations, including to submit an application to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) to deactivate the Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) at the Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility. 

Upon submission of the application to deactivate the FEP/WSF, NSECC requested that the municipality and site operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., conduct public consultation for the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, and Prospect located within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

The municipality and site operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., mailed out participation details to the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside Beechville, and Prospect within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

The consultation process ran from November 3 to December 6, 2021. While this public consultation was targeted to residents within five kilometres of the Otter Lake facility, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide feedback.

A public consultation report was developed, outlining the results of the public feedback. The report has been submitted to NSECC as part of the application requirement and the report is available at halifax.ca/otterlake.

The project web page, halifax.ca/otterlake, was updated with details regarding the consultation process. Additionally, targeted newsprint and social media advertising were executed throughout the consultation period to ensure nearby residents were aware of the opportunity and how to participate.

While those within five-kilometres of the facility received participation details through a mail out, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide their feedback. Residents could submit questions, concerns, or any other feedback by survey, email or mail. The consultation period ran from November 3, 2021, to December 6, 2021.

A public consultation report was developed, outlining the results of the public feedback. The report has been submitted to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change as part of the application requirement.

What were the results of the public consultation?

Between November 3 and December 6, 2021 public consultation on the proposed changes to the FEP/WSF was completed. 

Of the 1,905 surveys completed, 1,816 residents had concerns regarding potential negative impacts of deactivating the FEP/WSF. Of these 1816 responses, 689 were from respondents within a five-kilometre radius of the facility. In addition to the survey analysis, which included hard copy and email survey submissions, there were letters, emails, and social media comments. 

Following the conclusion of the public consultation process, an FEP/WSF Closure Review report was developed by Dillon Consulting Ltd., which documented the results of the public consultation program.

On January 24, 2022, the FEP/WSF Closure Review report was submitted to Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) as part of the application requirement. Read the full Closure Review report

The consultation report provided to NSECC contains all survey responses, letters, emails, and social media comments received throughout the consultation process from both residents within, and outside, a five-kilometre radius of the facility. As NSECC specifically requested public consultation amongst residents within a five-kilometre radius of the Otter Lake facility, the report emphasizes feedback received from these residents with detailed analysis, while providing a general analysis for responses outside the radius.  

The public consultation report indicated that respondents had concerns with the mitigation measures to be implemented should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The report concluded that the concerns raised by respondents are addressed through the continuation of existing environmental control measures (for example, the use of a landfill gas collection and treatment system to mitigate odours) and new mitigation measures (for example, on-site traffic controls to guide collection vehicles safely to the active landfill disposal area), as detailed in the FEP/WSF Closure Review report. The municipality remains committed to increasing the understanding and awareness among residents on mitigation measures in use.

The summary of key findings from the public consultation are listed below: 

  • Residents were concerned about an increase to traffic off-site and in the local communities. It’s important to note that deactivation of the FEP/WSF would not result in any off-site vehicle traffic. 
  • Residents were concerned about an increase to litter off-site, should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The FEP/WSF Closure Review report does not anticipate any increases to off-site litter. Additionally, the municipality regularly conducts routine Highway 103 litter cleanups as part of the landfill operations. On-site mitigation measures include the use of portable fencing and litter collection and removal efforts by site personnel. 
  • Residents were concerned about an increase to odours. The proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is not anticipated to cause any on-site or off-site odour issues, as all current environmental controls – including landfill gas collecting and treatment – would continue with no changes.
  • Negative impacts on both groundwater and surface water quality was another area of concern for residents. The FEP/WSF currently provides no protection of groundwater or surface water resources, therefore, groundwater and surface water quality would not be impacted by the deactivation of the FEP/WSF. Comprehensive on-going environmental monitoring will continue to evaluate groundwater and surface water quality, regardless of the status of the FEP/WSF.
  • Residents were concerned about an increase of birds. The proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is anticipated to have some on-site impact related to the attraction of birds, however, there would be no off-site impacts for the local communities. Mitigation measures include noise makers, such as whistler flares, and a falconer. 
  • Residents were concerned about honouring the original community agreement. There is concern that removing the FEP/WSF would violate the original 1999 agreement between the municipality and the Halifax Waste Resource Society. This agreement outlines that only “acceptable waste,” including waste that has been biostabilized through the FEP/WSF, shall be landfilled. At that time only five per cent of municipal waste was diverted from landfill disposal. Since then, the municipality has become a national leader in waste diversion and source separation programs. As such, most of the waste delivered to and disposed of at Otter Lake meets the “acceptable waste” requirement and there is no further benefit or community protections in the biostablizing process the FEP/WSF provides.

A full list of mitigation measures can be found in the Closure Review report

What does “deactivate the FEP/WSF” mean?

Deactivation of Otter Lake’s Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) includes pausing its operations, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required.

The municipality is a leader among Canadian communities in source separated waste diversion programs, and due in part to its success, Otter Lake could continue to operate in an environmentally sound manner without the FEP/WSF.

Deactivating the FEP/WSF would have no off-site impacts to public health, environment, and would not affect current environmental monitoring practices at the site. 

Risk-mitigation strategies can be found in the report.

If the FEP/WSF is deactivated, in what capacity would Otter Lake still function?

The Otter Lake Landfill will continue its operations. Residents will not be affected by either this application, or the deactivation of the FEP/WSF. If the FEP/WSF is deactivated, residents will continue to be permitted to drop off waste at the facility.

 Is the recommendation to deactivate the FEP/WSF based on cost?

The municipality is a leader among Canadian communities in source separated waste diversion programs, including significant reduction in organic waste being landfilled. Due to the success of these programs, the FEP/WSF is no longer needed. If deactivation of the FEP/WSF is not achieved, the municipality will see increased costs of $2 million annually.

What would happen to the organic waste that would have previously been sorted by the FEP/WSF?

If the FEP/WSF is deactivated, then all incoming waste will be landfilled directly.

As part of the Compliance Plan, the municipality and Otter Lake facility operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., completed a waste audit in May 2022. This audit included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste overall was 8.01 per cent, which is below the 10 per cent performance target as set out by Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC).

Three additional waste audits are planned quarterly for the remainder of 2022/2023. To account for variation in sample results, all four waste audits are needed to fully assess compliance with the performance target of 10 per cent.

This material is currently partially treated in the WSF and then landfilled.

Would the deactivation of the FEP/WSF lead to an increase in odour, pests or litter near the facility? What monitoring would be done to ensure there is no impact?

In an FEP/WSF Closure Review report, Dillon Consulting concluded that there does not appear to be any significant benefit to the continued operations of the FEP/WSF. Further, there does not appear to be any increased risk to public health and the environment if the FEP/WSF operations are terminated.

Dillon Consulting concluded that there would be no anticipated off-site impacts, including impacts related to odour or pests.

Dillon Consulting found that there could be potential increased risks on-site related to litter and pests, however, these risks could be mitigated through using additional portable fencing for litter, as well falconry as enhanced bird control and baiting programs for rodents at the landfill. 

It’s important to note that all current environmental monitoring would continue with no changes, including groundwater, surface water, and landfill gas monitoring and sampling.

Proposed FEP/WSF Deactivation Public Consultation Report