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Never down in the dump

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (July 16/04) - Eugene Villeneuve has given the Fort Simpson landfill quite a makeover -- and no one can accuse him of lacking a sense of humour.

Those entering the dump are greeted by a series of wooden signs that Villeneuve, the dump supervisor, has erected. They read, in order of appearance: "Dump city limit," "Population: 70 ravens, one person."

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Eugene Villeneuve recovered this lawn mower from the Fort Simpson landfill. With a little fixing up, the grass cutter will be as good as new. Villeneuve is the dump supervisor for Xah Ndah Resources. His work shack is seen in the background... and, yes, that is a KFC sign on the roof. - Derek Neary/NNSL photo

How did the census-takers miss the bears?

Next signs: "Yard sale. Everything half price;" "20 km/h school zone. Ravens playing."

Finally, as one pulls up to Villeneuve's 14- by eight-foot work shack, the hand-made sign reads "Eugene's Bed and Breakfast."

"Everybody's asking about room and board, but no one wants to stay," he says grinning.

From Tuesdays through Saturdays over the past year, he has been staffing the shack and directing visitors as to where they should deposit their loads. Burnables such as cardboard, paper, wood and lawn clippings go into one pit. Metals are to be dumped into another and plastic and Styrofoam into yet another.

Villeneuve has the first crack at salvaging items that people no longer want. He has collected much, including vehicle parts, metal scraps, doors, computers, functioning televisions and stereos, a bag of Happy Easter balloons, an electric calculator, a joystick, an unopened set of stainless steel utensils, flashlights and lots of magazines.

"It's amazing what people throw away," he says inside his small office, which is decorated with recovered furnishings and adorned with plaques, trophies and art that used to belong to others.

He shares the landfill site with bears, but there haven't been many around this year, he added. When they do come calling, he keeps his distance. His bruin policy, which seems to be observed by both he and the bears, "as long as you're not bothering them, they're not bothering you."

The resident ravens, on the other hand, are ubiquitous. Villeneuve hasn't made friends with any, nor has he been able to discern individual personalities among the flock.

"They just do their own thing," he says. "They sure do make a racket. If you didn't have a radio out here you'd go bonkers."