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New green bins coming; biodegradable plastic bags handed out in the meantime

LAWRENCETOWN, N.S. - Annapolis County has expropriated the Valley Waste western transfer station in Lawrencetown.

“Valley Waste has prohibited our use of the western transfer facility,” said Annapolis County CAO John Ferguson Aug. 17. “As a matter of public interest, we have had to expropriate that property.”

The moment expropriation papers were filed, the property became the county’s, said Warden Timothy Habinski.

“The facility exists, and the only reason that facility exists is for the use of Annapolis County,” Habinski said. “It simply makes sense. We don’t take any pleasure in taking an action like that, but it’s necessary. Our residents need the service. That’s why municipalities do have the authority to do something like that.”

It’s the latest twist in a dispute between Valley Waste Resource Management’s board and Annapolis County over the legality of garbage and compost contracts. The county maintains those contracts needed motions of approval by individual municipal councils.

John Kinsella, chairman of the board for Valley Waste, said the authority was aware that Annapolis County’s municipal council approved a motion calling for the expropriation of the Western Transfer Station in Lawrencetown Aug. 8.

“We are disappointed that this is how they have decided to deal with this situation, said Kinsella in a statement Aug. 17.

“Valley Waste received the expropriation documents from Annapolis County yesterday and we are now working with our lawyers to respond appropriately.”

Valley Waste cut off collection for Annapolis County residents as of Aug. 17, citing non-payment by the municipality. But Annapolis County had written out a cheque in trust that can’t be cashed until certain conditions are met regarding those contracts.

In the meantime, Annapolis County has contracted with EFR Environmental to ensure that county residents continue to receive collection services for garbage, compost, and recyclables. EFR Environmental, headquartered in Middleton, is the same company that has been doing garbage pick-up in Annapolis County for 20 years.

“They do a great job. They’re going to continue to do a great job,” Ferguson said.

Old green bins

Valley Waste has started collecting green bins in Annapolis County, and will be for the next few weeks.

“This is the final week for curbside pick-up of garbage, recyclables and compost by Valley Waste,” a post on Valley Waste’s website said. “As the green bins are assets of Valley Waste, discontinuing residential curbside pick-up also means Valley Waste will need to collect the green bin carts.”

Collection of those green bins, including cottage and seasonal bins, has already started but Valley Waste expects it will take a minimum of three weeks before all of the carts have been collected.

“If it is safe to do so, please leave your green bin curbside so it can be picked up, otherwise we will make arrangements to collect the cart from you at a later time,” Valley Waste said.

Annapolis County posted its own online statement asking residents to refrain from using the green compost carts after Aug. 17.  

Instead, the county is handing out biodegradable plastic bags for compost – large ones similar in capacity to the big green bins, and small ones like the small green bins people keep under their kitchen sinks.

The county recommends the compost bags be placed at the curb the same day as collection.

New green bins

Ferguson said new green bins have been sourced.

“We’re actively on that,” the CAO said.

Valley Waste said it had notified Annapolis County and offered to make other arrangements regarding the green bins, but received no reply from the county. Without a response, they began green bin removal.

“Valley Waste is telling the public that they offered to sell the bins to us,” said Ferguson. “I know of no direct offer from them to sell the bins to us.”

Habinski said creating the municipality's own waste collection service might just save county taxpayers a few dollars.

“The next change that I believe municipal residents will see is I think we’re going to see eventually a reduction in our bills for garbage collection,” said Habinski. “I think the service we’re putting together is going to be more affordable than what we had.”

While Ferguson couldn’t say when the new green bins will arrive, he indicated it would not be a long wait for residents.

Helping each other

Habinski said he has sympathy for residents regarding the green bin stop-gap measure of using biodegradable bags.

“We recognize that for some people there may be a physical difficulty in handling the bags, if they’re heavy,” he said. “We certainly encourage them to call the municipality. I’ve actually visited a couple of people today and shifted all their compost from bins into bags for them.”

“People are, as you can appreciate, upset,” said Ferguson. “And we certainly understand and appreciate that concern. We’re working with them. (This is an) opportunity for us to discuss the matter with them and how we’re working through it – most citizens have been very appreciative and have come to an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and we’re thankful for that.”

The CAO said the county’s hotline has been receiving numerous calls.

“We have people answering calls directly,” he said. “We have people who are going in and listening to the voice messages, making a list so we can get back to those people and free up the voice message line as well. We’re really dealing with an overflow of information.”

He said the county is also working on having large, roll-off compost containers so people with compost on their property that hasn’t been picked up can take that compost to the nearest location.

New service

In its post Aug. 16, Annapolis County detailed its new service.

“Please be advised that waste collection services will continue to be picked up on the same day and bi-weekly schedule,” it said. “This will not change.”
The county said garbage rules will remain the same (blue bag 1 – paper and paper products; blue bag 2 – recyclables, cans, plastics, cartons, foam polystyrene products; three clear bags and one black bag for all other garbage).

Those biodegradable compost bags can be picked up from one of the county offices:

-- 396 Main Street, Lawrencetown
-- 271 Granville Street, Bridgetown
-- 752 Saint George Street, Annapolis Royal.

Annapolis County’s new Waste Hotline is 1-833-360-2454.

Editor's note: This story was updated Aug. 18 to include comments from John Kinsella, chairman of the board for Valley Waste.

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