Right in the centre - It’s only a matter of time


By: Ken Waddell


The garbage dump at the City of Iqaluit is on fire and it’s reportedly going to cost millions to extinguish. That’s not surprising as the dump is quite large and obviously very remote. The city is waiting to see if some other level of government is willing to pay to put out the fire.

Meanwhile, toxic smoke is wafting over the community causing significant concerns for peoples’ health.

The above paragraph is very enlightening in so many ways. Modern Canadians concentrate their garbage in huge mounds, piled up and buried for some future generations to deal with. The future has come to Iqaluit.

It’s only a matter of time until it comes to many other communities, our own included.

By way of spontaneous combustion, lightning strike, accident or vandalism, it’s only a matter of time until more dumps erupt in smouldering fires. Every area of Canada is vulnerable to an erupting toxic spewing hell hole.

The fact that the City of Iqaluit wants someone else to pay for extinguishing the fire is so very Canadian.

“Can’t we get a grant for that?” That is the common hue and cry at every turn in the Canadian way of life. The answer should be, “No, you can’t.”

If every level of government truly looked after their own jurisdiction, we would all be better off and have more accountable government.

To be sure, the people of Iqaluit have a very real problem on their hands. There may be decades of health ramifications from this fire. Nobody knows what all is burning in that heap of garbage, but we can be assured, there’s lots of plastics, paint, adhesives and who knows what other kinds of potential toxins.

The long-term solution is to greatly increase our recycling efforts and when push comes to shove, when recycling efforts are exhausted and garbage is the only answer, then we need to turn to co-generation. It’s being used in many developed countries and it needs to be adopted in Canada. Co-generation is a process whereby garbage, that cannot be recycled practically, is burned in a clean burn heat generation unit that is used to generate steam and therefore useable heat and/or electricity.

The collected ash, which is minimal, can be mixed with pavement so it is embedded in the roadways and not left to blow around causing more environmental and health care issues.

Everybody used to burn garbage in small amounts. The garbage that would burn cleanly went into the cookstove or into the furnace. The stuff that wouldn’t burn cleanly went into the outdoor burning barrel.

Because it was in small amounts, and usually only burnt on calm days with the wind in the right direction, after effects of pollution were minimized.

With the volumes of garbage that are generated today, even by small communities, it’s impossible to conduct open burning. Clean burning in a facility can generate power which would make much more sense.

We will be forced by circumstances to do it some day and the sooner we get on board with it the better.

Iqaluit is only one of hundreds of communities that can fall victim to our blatant ignoring of a realty.

Garbage can burn and will burn – it’s just a matter of when. It’s better to burn in a controlled, clean burn environment than to spend millions on extinguishing after the untold expensive health damage has happened.

It’s not rocket science. A quick review of the internet will give lots of examples of clean burn energy production. It’s not as cheap as hydro by any means but it’s a lot cheaper than putting out dump fires and it’s cheaper than paying out potentially hundreds, if not thousands of health care claims.

To make the change, the cities and towns, along with the provinces would have to think ahead for more than 10 minutes and actually deal with problems. Actually they would have to adopt the idea of making problems into opportunities.