An advisory committee says a lack of clear guidelines and standards in the province has created inconsistent information for landfill users
Saskatchewan’s rural solid waste landfills make up a system that is largely broken, says Richard (Porky) Porter.
“There are no standards and guidelines, so nobody really knows where they’re at. Nobody knows what they should be doing because everybody interprets it (regulations) differently,” said Porter, who chaired the solid waste advisory committee consultation and review process for the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities.
Porter presented the committee’s report during SARM’s annual convention in Saskatoon in March.
The committee was established last year by the environment minister and tasked with developing a draft solid waste management strategy and identify potential changes to the Municipal Refuse Management Regulations (MRMR).
Six meetings were held throughout the province, which allowed public input from 42 municipalities.
Porter told the SARM delegates that a lack of clear standards and guidelines has created inconsistency of information for landfill users including enforcement.
“We need Saskatchewan standards and guidelines for designing, constructing, operating and decommissioning a landfill rather than using Alberta’s or Manitoba’s,” he said.
“We all need to be on the same page in terms of what the expectations are.”
A red tape review of the MRMR confirmed the province does not have a fair and predictable regulatory environment, which is not effective or efficient.
He said it became clear that the general public, including himself, is not sure what MRMR means or does.
“MRMR is very out of date and does not provide much guidance for municipalities. Regulations need to be updated to include important issues and opportunities like handling hazardous waste, composting, etc.,” he said.
He said current regulations allow for too much interpretation by environment protection officers (EPOs), who do not enforce consistently across the province.
As well, a high turnover rate, including a lack of EPOs to service the province, has resulted in poor turnaround times for inquiries and processing applications.
There was general agreement regarding regional collaboration that the status quo is not sustainable and unaffordable.
However, Porter said regional should not just be defined as an equity partner in an authority.
“There needs to be affordable options for municipalities through collaborative partnerships. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said.
This can include partnerships with First Nations and the private sector.
Concerns were also raised about financial costs, increased hauling costs, impacts to roads and decommissioning requirements.
“SARM and SUMA (Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association) need to work together more closely to help their members collaborate better,” he said.
Saskatchewan also needs a household hazardous waste program, he said.
He said the main challenge is to reduce the number of small rural landfills throughout the province, many of which are full and need to be decommissioned.
He said the advisory committee is currently working on its summary and recommendations, which they will present to the minister of environment in April.