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Drone finds our landfill may have more capacity than we thought

Clock is ticking as the city seeks provincial approval for a $21.5 million landfill expansion

A recent aerial drone survey may have bought a little more time for Sault Ste. Marie's city dump.

At the end of 2019, engineering consultant AECOM Canada Ltd. concluded our landfill at 402 Fifth Line E. had just 6.5 years of useful life remaining, down from 7.3 years at the same time in 2018.

But aerial images taken during a drone flyover this past April found some good news.

"We have gone through those calculations already and we are expecting that the number we reported in 2019 was actually a little conservative," local AECOM manager Rick Talvitie told a meeting of the city's environmental monitoring committee last week.

"The actual number, based on this survey, was likely somewhere between 7.3 and 6.5," Talvitie reported.

City officials are hoping to get provincial approval for a $21.5 million, five-year dump expansion that's expected to include a new 4.1-hectare area for storing trash northeast of existing landfill operations.

Their plan also includes 'mining' trash from a 2.5-hectare existing disposal area to the southwest of current operations, so a liner can be placed beneath it and more trash added.

Talvitie told last week's meeting that the final draft of the city's application is expected to be submitted to the province later this year.

If approval is granted sometime in 2021, Talvitie's hopeful work on the first cell of the landfill expansion will begin the following year.

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is also designing a biosolids processing facility that it hopes to build outside and to the northwest of the existing landfill footprint.

Sewage sludge will be brought there for indoor processing in a facility that will have odour-control measures.

The end product of that facility will be a soil-like material that could be used for landfill cover or as topsoil to support vegetative growth on the site's final cover.

Only four odour complaints have been received regarding the landfill so far this year, two of them on the same day.

Typically, there are 10 to 11 complaints each year.

Most odour complaints are received during the summer so Talvitie is optimistic 2020 will be better than previous years.

Another major factor expected to affect landfill capacity will the province's expected imposition of an organic waste collection program, Talvitie said.

If that happens, the amount of waste diverted from the city dump could climb from the current 30 per cent to 50 per cent, he said.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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