Town of Duck Lake left with unanswered questions after Ministry of Environment forces landfill closure

Duck Lake Mayor Donna Piche announces government funding for the closure of their landfill at the town office on Oct. 17, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Provincial, federal governments conditionally approve about $230K for closure costs

The mood was bittersweet in the Town of Duck Lake office on Thursday afternoon.

The mayor, town councillors, politicians and residents gathered for a funding announcement regarding the Duck Lake landfill.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment has informed the town that their landfill must be closed by June 30 of next year. However, the provincial and federal governments have conditionally approved $277,157 for closure costs.

The money comes from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP).

Last year, Premier Scott Moe announced his plans to reduce the amount of landfills in rural communities.

According to the Ministry of Environment, Saskatchewan has more landfills per capita than any other Canadian province, along with the highest disposal rate.

As of February 2018, the province had 229 operational landfills, 188 transfer stations, 16 industrial landfills, and 431 closed landfills.

The Ministry of Environment said the Duck Lake landfill must be closed by June, 30, 2020. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

While residents celebrated the funding over coffee and cake, the town continues to ponder unanswered questions.

“It’s a service that is expected and is rightful. You can’t just have them throw it out on the side of the road someplace, which in a lot of cases, that’s what happens,” said Mayor Donna Piche.

She said Loraas collects household waste and recycling on a biweekly basis. The problem, she explained, will come when residents need to dispose of items like fridges or tires.

“In my household, the bins are enough for us. But it’s when something else, like we just had an old fridge that we used in the basement. It went, so now we have to take it out to the landfill and after it’s closed, I don’t know what we’ll (do). We have to determine what happens with stuff like that.”

Duck Lake Mayor Donna Piche and Administrator Michelle Zurakowski worry the landfill’s closure may result in illegal disposal. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

The landfill is located approximately six kilometres north of Duck Lake.

It’s open every other Saturday, according to administrator Michelle Zurakowski. She applied for the funding in April, which will go towards an Environmental Site Analysis (ESA) and a closure plan. After that, they’ll need to haul out the waste and monitor the area.

Like Piche, Zurakowski was concerned about illegal disposal.

“We just had someone cut the chain out there and dump their stuff just recently, which is an issue, too,” she said.

“We…need to have a little bit more information of what the options are.”

She said she’s hoping to have a meeting with the R.M. of Duck Lake in November to discuss how they’ll monitor the site.

Despite the unanswered questions, Zurakowski is grateful the government is helping cover the cost.

Batoche MLA Delbert Kirsch attended the announcement on behalf of the Minister of Government Relations, Lori Carr. He said the government does feel obligated to pitch in for the landfill closure.

“Some of these things, when they first were started, there were no environmental standards,” he explained.

“Now (we have) to catch up to that all and to build a system where all (these) environmental things are met. Like tires, they used to throw them in the landfill. Well, now send them to Saskatoon and they grind them up.”

Batoche MLA Delbert Kirsch (left) and Duck Lake Mayor Donna Piche (right) shake hands after a funding announcement for the closure of Duck Lake’s landfill on Oct. 17, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

He described Duck Lake as “a town that will not give up (and) keeps on working and building.”

Residents of Duck Lake do not pay to use the landfill, but contractors and people outside of the town in the R.M. have to pay a fee.