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Heated words exchanged at Otter Lake landfill public meeting

Removal of the front end processing, FEP, and waste stabilization facility, WSF, are at the heart of the debate that made residents so vocal Wednesday night.
Removal of the front end processing, FEP, and waste stabilization facility, WSF, are at the heart of the debate that made residents so vocal Wednesday night. Julia Wong/Global News

HALIFAX – It was a war of words at the first public meeting held by HRM to discuss the future of the Otter Lake landfill.

Removal of the front end processing, FEP, and waste stabilization facility, WSF, are at the heart of the debate that made residents so vocal Wednesday night.

“It doesn’t make moral sense and it doesn’t make economic sense to go back on the agreement,” one man said before applause erupted.

Inclusion of the FEP and WSF are in a contract HRM has with the community. Many residents are outraged the municipality is considering breaking that commitment.

“If you make a contract, that’s what you do. It just seems impossible they can renege on it,” said Catherine Klefenz, who lives near the landfill.

Jeanette Chisholm also lives near Otter Lake. She’s concerned about odour and the impact on the environment if the FEP and WSF are taken away.

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“I’m hoping that HRM is smart enough to just say ‘Sorry’ and back off,” she said.

About 200 people packed a room in Exhibition Park for the public meeting. The meeting broke down into introductions before speeches were made by the Community Monitoring Committee and HRM. Then residents wrote down concerns that were posted on a wall, which was followed by an open mic question-and-answer period.

Mike Labrecque, deputy chief administrative officer for HRM, says the purpose of the meeting was to listen to citizens.

“People are passionate. It’s an important subject. It’s important for us to hear back from the community,” he said.

And while one man suggested during the Q&A session that council has already made a decision on the matter, Labrecque insists that is not the case.

“There’s been no decisions made, certainly on the part of council. No decisions have been made at this point,” he said.

But the fact that HRM could back out of its contract has some people fuming.

“In my mind, in the minds of many people I believe, to say we’re going to close down the community and environmental protection components…this is just a bait and switch tactic,” said Ken Donnelly of the Community Monitoring Committee.

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He believes HRM should have refused to even consider the recommendation to remove the FEP and WSF.

“Council should have spoken up right away. Mayor and council should have said, ‘No. No, HRM is a municipality that keeps its promises to its community’.”

Scott Guthrie is a member of the HRM Waste Resource Society and lives near Otter Lake. He says that he would feel any changes made to the landfill.

“If the possibility of hazardous waste or toxic waste were to creep through the fractured bedrock that the facility is sitting on or leech into the river system, it would contaminate the waste supply and contaminate the water shed that flows down into my community,” he said.

He isn’t opposed changes to the landfill though he believes the municipality needs to stand by its word.

“Let’s make changes that make sense. Changes that don’t impact the commitments to the community and changes that don’t impact the environment.”

Thirteen more public meetings will be held throughout the rest of September and October.

A report will be compiled and forwarded to council by either late November or early December.