KATEPWA LAKE – For months, smoke from a smouldering fire at the Katepwa landfill has been wafting over the village. The community suspects arson was the original cause of the fire which started in mid-October, but it could be as late as spring until they are able to put it out.
“It’s not like a wood fire, it’s very toxic and gross,” said Katepwa Lake resident, Denise Temple.
The smell from the burning garbage at times, is overwhelming.
“I have asthma, and if I had been walking in the winter, I wouldn’t have been able to go out,” said Temple, who is currently recovering from a hip replacement. “Most days the smell is so bad, I can taste it and smell it in the house here.”
Temple said the streak of cold weather has caused the smell to settle, making the situation worse, but she’s also worried about what will happen in the spring.
“When the weather gets nice, we have grand kids who come and stay with us all the time. You won’t be able to go down to the beach or just ride around or whatever, especially anybody who has any kind of medical problems.”
Warren Bobbee is the emergency management consultant for the District of Katepwa. He said, “Depending on the heat, how longs it been burning, what’s been burning down there, carbon monoxide’s an issue. Methane’s an issue.”
The Balcarres Fire Department fought the initial flames; then the village tried to smother the fire with clay. It didn’t work. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Environment conducted air quality monitoring for one week.
“The results were well within Canadian ambient air quality standards. In fact, on a 24 hour basis, 100 percent of the tests taken were in compliance,” said Ash Olesen with the ministry.
However, Bobbee is not entirely convinced: “It’s a particulate testing and it’s based over 24 hours so if you have two hours that’s not that great and it’s averaged over 24 it’s going to look like it’s pretty good.”
The only way to ensure absolute air quality is to extinguish the fire, but they can only start that when the temperature gets warmer and they have access to water. Meanwhile, the village is cautioning anyone who may have health concerns to consult a doctor.