According to the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) waste committee, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best solution to address the safety concerns at RDBN solid waste management facilities.
In September 2015, the RDBN decided to close all re-use sheds and ban salvaging activities at solid waste management facilities due to a number of troubling incidents directly affecting staff and public health and safety.
Last week the waste committee decided that municipal and area directors from each group of neighbouring communities (such as areas B and E) should determine their own delivery model and service levels and bring back those discussions to a RDBN meeting on Jan. 14, 2016.
The waste committee also determined that safety audits will be conducted at all RDBN solid waste management facilities. However, according to Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B, it still hasn’t been determined who will conduct the safety audits or when they will take place.
In order to make those decisions, the waste committee took into account the results of public consultation meetings that were held in October and November 2015.
Over 200 people participated in meetings that were held in nine different communities including Burns Lake, Southside, Granisle, Fraser Lake, Houston, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Telkwa and Smithers.
Eighteen people attended the meeting in Burns Lake and 11 in the Southside. According to the RDBN, the main purpose of those meetings was to gather feedback from the community and to explain the reasons why the re-use sheds have been closed.
According to the RDBN, troubling incidents that took place at the re-use sheds include live ammunition found in a brown cassette tape briefcase; prescription drugs left in a box; a dirty diaper found thrown in the corner of a re-use shed; and over 100 used hypodermic needles that were found in boxes mixed in with children’s toys. In addition, reports have been made regarding members of the public urinating and defecating behind a re-use shed. According to a report prepared by Janine Dougall, RDBN Director of Environmental Services, members of the public attending the consultation meetings were “very passionate” about the re-use sheds and many expressed disappointment with the closure of the facilities.
The report says some people disagreed with the risk and liability associated with use of the re-use sheds, saying that the incidents that occurred were “rare and not a sufficient reasoning” to close the facilities.
During the meetings, participants were encouraged to forward ideas and suggestions in writing to the RDBN on how to safely and effectively operate the re-use sheds. The RDBN received a total of 86 feedback submissions.
Among the common themes that emerged during the meetings were suggestions for addressing the hazardous materials and bad behavior issues, including:
• Additional clear signage and public education;
• Additional staffing – both hired or volunteers;
• Not allowing unopened bags or boxes to be dropped off;
• Having a separate drop off area that is monitored;
• Training staff on how to effectively deal with aggressive peo ple and situations;
• Installing camera systems;
• Paying membership in combination with signing a liability form;
• Calling the RCMP;
• Zero tolerance, fining people and banning people from the site;
• Having additional public education on available recycling programs;
• Reducing hours of operation of the re-use sheds to minimize additional staffing costs;
• Transitioning the management of the re-use sheds to non-profit organizations or partner with existing organizations to expand existing operations;
• Moving the re-use sheds closer to communities;
• Increasing the size of the re-use sheds and changing location to reduce traffic congestion;
• Only allowing children in the re-use sheds under direct supervision by an adult.
The RDBN has also investigated what other regional districts are doing with respect to re-use sheds. While some regional districts that operate re-use sheds are experiencing some of the same challenges, others are not having the same issues. According to the RDBN, in most cases where re-use sheds are working well, the facilities are staffed to a certain degree – either through the use of regional district staff, contractors or non-profits. In addition, materials accepted in these re-use sheds were limited to “good materials” in clean and working condition, and the decision as to acceptability of materials was up to the attendants managing the facility.
Within the next few weeks, Bill Miller will meet with Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold and Area E director Eileen Benedict to determine what solutions will work best for the Lakes District.