Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Landfill proposal causing bird flap

It’s not going out on a wing to say a letter from Transport Canada regarding a proposed landfill site on Couchiching First Nation has caused quite a flap amongst town administration and council.
Fort Frances Airport supervisor Tom Batiuk has gone on record opposing the proposed landfill site due to concerns with increased bird activity and how it would affect safety at—and in the vicinity of—the airport.

But a recent letter from Transport Canada indicated that because the airport does not have a bird hazard or waste disposal clause in its Airport Zoning Regulations, it has no authority to restrict the establishment of a landfill.
Transport Canada only recommends that if a new landfill is created, it would be operated as a bird-free site and that it would halt operations if it becomes hazardous to aviation safety.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said the town now has to write a letter to Transport Canada stating that “it’s kind of hard to run a landfill site that’s bird-free.”
“It’s going to affect safety at the airport,” he stressed at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
“It’s kind of a mockery that the federal government would say something like that in a letter,” Brown added.
“It’s almost impossible to run a landfill site without having birds infest the whole area,” agreed Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who chairs the Operations and Facilities executive committee.
“This is definitely going to be a hazard to aviation safety at our airport,” he warned.
“I think we need to address this immediately through letterhead from the mayor’s office.”
“It’s amazing that Transport Canada can come out with a letter such as this and say . . . a landfill site will be bird-free,” echoed Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig.
“They just put us through a safety management exercise that was so over-baked and so onerous with the amount of paper and regulation, and [they] would not hesitate to reject a submission because of some spelling mistakes or something of that ilk,” he noted.
“When they’re setting a tone, that they’re going to take such a stance in regards to airport safety, right down to the most finite detail, and then abdicate responsibility for aviation safety by suggesting a landfill can be bird-free—they’ll have to explain it to me,” added McCaig.
McCaig added he is listed as an accountable executive under airport safety management systems, and if anything should happen there, he could face criminal charges and even jail time.
Coun. Ken Perry suggested the writer of the letter should tour some of the landfill sites in the province and see for himself if they have birds.
“He’d be probably amazed,” he quipped.
Coun. Perry pointed out Transport Canada said in the letter it had no authority to restrict the establishment of a landfill site, but then went on to say if it becomes a problem, they can halt the operation.
“It doesn’t make common sense. It’s beyond common sense,” he charged, adding to let a community build a landfill and then shut it down when it becomes a problem is a waste of money.
Council referred the matter to the Operations and Facilities executive committee in order to draft an appropriate response to Transport Canada.

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