Although many of us recycle and compost, some items still go to the landfill. Traditional landfills had a reputation for harming the environment, but modern landfill managers make every effort to minimize their ecological impact. And in Manitoba – it’s the law.
In the past most Setting Lake cabin owners routinely tossed their garbage into the old dump. They didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. It wasn’t a pretty place. Garbage bags – torn apart by ravens and bears- littered the road, hung from fences and tree branches, and the smell of rotting garbage and fish on a hot summer day was…well,,,you get the picture.
Like other landfills around the province, ours was not monitored. This meant it was easy for toxic chemicals and gases to contaminate the air, soil and groundwater. The old landfill also acted as a breeding ground for mosquitoes, rodents and other disease-carrying pests.
In 2016, when the provincial government introduced new legislation and the Waste Management Facilities Regulations, all that changed. Today, all Manitoba landfills are sanitary landfills.
In a sanitary landfill, waste is physically separated from the surrounding environment to allow waste to decompose safely. And as materials decompose, groundwater is monitored to detect any leakage.
To put it simply, Setting Lake, like other sanitary landfills operates by layering waste and soil. Trash is delivered to the main area, and then compacted so it takes up less room. Then the compacted trash is covered with a layer of soil, which helps contain odors and deter pests. Layering continues until the site is full. Most burning is prohibited.
Once Setting Lake’s landfill is full, the cost of restoring the site and building a new one will be significant. The new provincial legislation requires SLCOA to remove any solid waste that has not been buried. The association must cap the site with a layer of heavy clay at least a half meter thick, then grade the area, cover it with fresh topsoil, and plant vegetation.
The cost will be shared by all cabin owners and will mean an increase in the annual levy. SLCOA’s Executive is making every effort to extend the life of the landfill through careful management. But that requires the cooperation of every cabin owner.
The first step is recognizing that not all waste belongs in the landfill. The Setting Lake landfill is not a recycling centre nor is it a hazardous waste depot. Members must follow good waste management and recycling practices if we want the landfill to remain open.
There is a cost to operating a recycling centre. If cabin owners want one that will be a different conversation and a vote of the membership at an Annual General Meeting.