Otter Lake Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility

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Last updated:  December 1, 2022

On November 30, 2022, Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) accepted the revised Compliance Plan, allowing deactivation of the Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility (Otter Lake) Front End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) to proceed. 

Deactivation means pausing and maintaining the FEP/WSF operation, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required. It is anticipated that it will take approximately two to four weeks for deactivation to be implemented.

Background

On March 22, 2022, NSECC issued an updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake allowing the FEP/WSF to be deactivated, provided that the municipality and the Otter Lake Waste Processing and Disposal Facility Operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Ltd. (Mirror), submit to NSECC a Compliance Plan. 

On June 29, 2022, the municipality and Mirror submitted a Compliance Plan to NSECC. The Compliance Plan addressed several requirements, including measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal – complete with compliance checks – to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent. Additionally, requirements related to removing recyclable white goods, bulky items and household special waste when “visible and can be safely removed” were addressed. 

The Compliance Plan has been updated twice in response to comments received by NSECC on October 26, 2022, and November 21, 2022. See the municipality’s response letters from November 4, 2022, and November 22, 2022

As part of the Compliance Plan, a waste audit will be completed quarterly. The municipality and Otter Lake facility operator, Mirror, completed waste audits in May and August 2022. The audits included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste was 10.81 per cent, slightly above the 10 per cent performance target as set out by NSECC.

To account for variation in sample results, four waste audits are needed to baseline and fully assess the composition of compostable waste and to evaluate compliance with the performance target of 10 per cent. Additionally, four waste audits will be completed annually to track performance.

The revised Compliance Plan clarifies procedures and actions being implemented as part of the Compliance Plan. 

The major changes to the revised Compliance Plan include:

  1. Addition of household special waste (HSW) and small white goods to waste audits; 
  2. Clarification on, and an increased number of annual samples to be collected and characterized as part of waste audits; and, 
  3. Clarification on action items to promote proper diversion of recyclable white goods/bulky items and HSW. 

As outlined in the Compliance Plan, during the summer of 2022, the municipality launched a new public education campaign, Food Isn’t Garbage, focused on reducing and diverting compostable waste. Additionally, during the fall of 2022, a new Compostable Waste category was added on the education rejection stickers to bring focus to rejecting residential garbage containing excessive compostable waste.

Further information can be found in the Q&A below. This web page will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.

About the Otter Lake FEP/WSF

Otter Lake was commissioned in 1999 and included the FEP/WSF.

The FEP consists of mechanical equipment that processes bagged garbage. The main function of the FEP is to separate and send organics containing waste to the WSF for biostabilization (treatment similar to composting) prior to landfilling, to mitigate landfill nuisance factors such as odours and attraction of birds.

The FEP/WSF was developed at a time when only approximately five per cent of waste materials were diverted from landfill disposal and prior to the implementation of the municipality’s green cart program that diverts food waste from landfill disposal. Today, the municipality is a national leader in diverting waste from landfill disposal. This includes a successful green cart program that recovers the majority of food waste and converts it into compost.

Given the change in composition of waste being landfilled since the late 1990s, as well the success of the municipality’s solid waste program, the municipality believes that the FEP/WSF could be ‘deactivated’ — paused and able to resume operations if required — with waste directly landfilled without pre-processing, similar to all other landfills in Nova Scotia, while continuing to operate Otter Lake in an environmentally sound manner with no impacts to the local community.

In 2013, Stantec completed a Waste Resource Strategy Update on behalf of the municipality and concluded that the municipality should deactivate the FEP/WSF. SNC Lavalin completed a peer review and concurred with Stantec’s findings. Dillon Consulting prepared a Closure Review report that found that the FEP/WSF operations could be deactivated with no adverse impacts on the local community and environment.

On July 20, 2021, Regional Council accepted staff recommendations, including to submit an application to Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) to deactivate the FEP/WSF. View the staff report here. The application was submitted to NSECC on August 26, 2021.

Upon submission of the application to deactivate the FEP/WSF, NSECC requested that the municipality and site operator, Mirror Nova Scotia Inc., conduct public consultation for the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, and Prospect, located within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

Q&A

What is the status of the application to deactivate the FEP/ WSF at Otter Lake?

On November 30, 2022, NSECC accepted the revised Compliance Plan, allowing deactivation of the Otter Lake Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) to proceed. It is anticipated that it will take approximately two to four weeks for deactivation to be implemented.

What does NSECC acceptance of the Compliance Plan mean?

With NSECC acceptance of the Compliance Plan, deactivation of the Otter Lake Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) can proceed, which means pausing and maintaining the FEP/WSF operation, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required. It is anticipated that it will take approximately two to four weeks for deactivation to be implemented.

Why is this happening?

In July 2021, Regional Council approved a recommendation to submit an application to NSECC to deactivate the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) at the Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility (Otter Lake). Deactivating the FEP/WSF amounts to pausing its operations, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required.

On March 22, 2022, NSECC issued an updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake allowing the FEP/WSF to be deactivated, provided that the municipality and the Otter Lake facility operator, Mirror, submit to NSECC a Compliance Plan.

On June 29, 2022, the municipality and Mirror submitted a Compliance Plan to NSECC. The Compliance Plan addressed several requirements, including measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal – complete with compliance checks – to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent. The Compliance Plan outlined how the municipality and Mirror will meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent of the composition of incoming residential waste consisting of banned compostable waste (such as food waste, leaf and yard waste, paper and cardboard).

On November 4, 2022, and November 22, 2022, the Compliance Plan was updated in response to comments received by NSECC on October 26, 2022, and November 21, 2022, respectively.

On November 30, 2022, NSECC accepted the Compliance Plan, allowing deactivation of the FEP/WSF to proceed. It is anticipated that it will take approximately two to four weeks for deactivation to be implemented.

What is included in the Compliance Plan?

The Compliance Plan addressed several requirements, including measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal – complete with compliance checks – to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent. The Compliance Plan outlined how the municipality and Mirror will meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent of the composition of incoming residential waste consisting of banned compostable waste (such as food waste, leaf and yard waste, paper and cardboard).

The municipality and Mirror completed waste audits in May and November 2022. This audit included collecting residential garbage samples from across the municipality. The results showed that the composition of compostable waste overall was 10.81 per cent, which is slight above the 10 per cent performance target as set out by NSECC.

To account for variation in sample results, four waste audits are needed to baseline and fully assess the composition of compostable waste and to evaluate compliance with the performance target of 10 per cent. Additionally, four waste audits will be completed annually to track performance.

As outlined in the Compliance Plan, during the summer of 2022, the municipality launched a new public education campaign, Food Isn’t Garbage, focused on reducing and diverting compostable waste.

Additionally, during the fall of 2022, a new Compostable Waste category was added on the education rejection stickers to bring focus to rejecting residential garbage containing excessive compostable waste.

The major changes to the revised Compliance Plan in response to NSECC comments include:

  1. Addition of household special waste (HSW) and small white goods to waste audits;
  2. Clarification on, and an increased number of, annual samples to be collected and characterized as part of waste audits; and,
  3. Clarification on action items to promote proper diversion of recyclable white goods/bulky items and HSW.
Once the FEP/WSF is deactivated, in what capacity will Otter Lake still function?

The Otter Lake Landfill will continue its operations. Residents will not be affected by either this application, or the deactivation of the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF). Once the FEP/WSF is deactivated, residents will continue to be permitted to drop off waste at the facility.

What will happen to the organic waste that was previously sorted by the FEP/WSF?

When the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) is deactivated, all incoming waste will be landfilled directly.

Will deactivation of the FEP/WSF lead to an increase in odour, pests or litter near the facility? What monitoring will be done to ensure there is no impact?

In an FEP/WSF Closure Review report, Dillon Consulting concluded that there does not appear to be any significant benefit to the continued operations of the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF). Further, there does not appear to be any increased risk to public health and the environment if the FEP/WSF operations are terminated.

Dillon Consulting concluded that there would be no anticipated off-site impacts, including impacts related to odour or pests.

Dillon Consulting found that there could be potential increased risks on-site related to litter and pests, however, that that these risks could be mitigated through using additional portable fencing for litter, as well falconry as enhanced bird control and baiting programs for rodents at the landfill.

It’s important to note that all current environmental monitoring will continue with no changes, including groundwater, surface water, and landfill gas monitoring and sampling.

Was public consultation conducted?

Yes. In July 2021, Regional Council approved a recommendation to submit an application to NSECC to deactivate the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) at the Otter Lake Waste Processing & Disposal Facility (Otter Lake). Deactivating the FEP/WSF amounts to pausing its operations, allowing it to be resumed at any point if required.

Upon submission of the application to deactivate the FEP/WSF, NSECC requested that the municipality and site operator, Mirror, conduct public consultation for the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside, Beechville, and Prospect located within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

The consultation process ran from November 3 to December 6, 2021. While this public consultation was targeted to residents within five kilometres of the Otter Lake facility, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide feedback.

The municipality and Mirror mailed out participation details to the residents of Timberlea, Lakeside Beechville, and Prospect within a five-kilometer radius of the Otter Lake facility.

The project web page, halifax.ca/otterlake, was updated with details regarding the consultation process. Additionally, targeted newsprint and social media advertising were executed throughout the consultation period to ensure nearby residents were aware of the opportunity and how to participate.

While those within five kilometres of the facility received participation details through a mail out, all residents across the municipality were welcome to provide their feedback. Residents could submit questions, concerns, or any other feedback by survey, email or mail.

A public consultation report was developed, outlining the results of the public feedback. The report was submitted to NSECC as part of the application requirement. See the Public Consultation Report here.

What were the results of the public consultation?

Between November 3, 2021, and December 6, 2021, public consultation on the proposed changes to the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) was completed.

Of the 1,905 surveys completed, 1,816 residents had concerns regarding potential negative impacts of deactivating the FEP/WSF. Of these 1816 responses, 689 were from respondents within a five-kilometre radius of the facility. In addition to the survey analysis, which included hard copy and email survey submissions, there were letters, emails, and social media comments.

Following the conclusion of the public consultation process, a public consultation report was developed by Dillon Consulting Ltd., which documented the results of the public consultation program. On January 24, 2022, the report was submitted to Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change as part of the application requirement. Read the full report at halifax.ca/otterlake.

The consultation report provided to NSECC contains all survey responses, letters, emails, and social media comments received throughout the consultation process from both residents within, and outside, a five-kilometre radius. As NSECC specifically requested public consultation amongst residents within a five-kilometre radius of the Otter Lake facility, the report emphasizes feedback received from these residents with detailed analysis, while providing a general analysis for responses outside the radius.

The public consultation report indicated that respondents had concerns with the mitigation measures to be implemented should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The report concluded that the concerns raised by respondents are addressed through the continuation of existing environmental control measures (for example, the use of a landfill gas collection and treatment system to mitigate odours) and new mitigation measures (for example, on-site traffic controls to guide collection vehicles safely to the active landfill disposal area), as detailed in the FEP/WSF Closure Review report. The municipality remains committed to increasing the understanding and awareness among residents on mitigation measures in use.

The summary of key findings from the public consultation are listed below:

  • Residents were concerned about an increase to traffic off-site and in the local communities. It’s important to note that deactivation of the FEP/WSF will not result in any off-site vehicle traffic.
  • Residents were concerned about an increase to litter off-site, should the FEP/WSF be deactivated. The FEP/WSF Closure Review report does not anticipate any increases to off-site litter. Additionally, the municipality regularly conducts routine Highway 103 litter cleanups as part of the landfill operations. On-site mitigation measures include the use of portable fencing and litter collection and removal efforts by site personnel.
  • Residents were concerned about an increase to odours. The proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is not anticipated to cause any on-site or off-site odour issues, as all current environmental controls – including landfill gas collecting and treatment – will continue with no changes.
  • Negative impacts on both groundwater and surface water quality was another area of concern for residents. The FEP/WSF currently provides no protection of groundwater or surface water resources, therefore, groundwater and surface water quality will not be impacted by the deactivation of the FEP/WSF. Comprehensive on-going environmental monitoring will continue to evaluate groundwater and surface water quality, regardless of the status of the FEP/WSF.
  • Residents were concerned about an increase of birds. The proposed deactivation of the FEP/WSF is anticipated to have some on-site impact related to the attraction of birds, however, there will be no off-site impacts for the local communities. Mitigation measures include noise makers, such as whistler flares, and a falconer.
  • Residents were concerned about honouring the original community agreement. There is concern that removing the FEP/WSF would violate the original 1999 agreement between the municipality and the Halifax Waste Resource Society. This agreement outlines that only “acceptable waste,” including waste that has been biostabilized through the FEP/WSF, shall be landfilled. At that time only five per cent of municipal waste was diverted from landfill disposal. Since then, the municipality has become a national leader in waste diversion and source separation programs. As such, most of the waste delivered to and disposed of at Otter Lake meets the “acceptable waste” requirement and there is no further benefit or community protections in the biostablizing process the FEP/WSF provides.

A full list of mitigation measures can be found in the report.

Does the municipality need to meet the 10 per cent target for compostable waste received in the waste stream for the FEP/WSF to be deactivated?

No. The municipality does not need to meet the 10 per cent target for the Front-End Processor and Waste Stabilization Facility (FEP/WSF) to be deactivated.

As part of the Updated Municipal Approval for Otter Lake, NSECC required the municipality to identify in the Compliance Plan measures to capture compostable waste received in the incoming waste stream with a long-term goal to meet a performance target of no more than 10 per cent.

 

Proposed FEP/WSF Deactivation Public Consultation Report