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A day at the dump

Joyce MacDonald
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 19/04) - When you pull up to the weigh-in station at Yellowknife's dump, on the right there's a square yellow building. That's where garbage and goods to be recycled get dumped, sorted and compacted into bales.

In the corner of one large and smelly room, there are six bales of pop cans.

Bruce Underhay, landfill manager, said about 34,000 cans go into each bale. Yellowknife has been saving up these cans for a few years, waiting for the price of aluminum to rise.

Recyclables are shipped south, while garbage goes on up the hill into the landfill.

Greg Kehoe, Yellowknife's director of public works, said the city spends $1.5 million a year on garbage, including the cost of collection by Kavanaugh Brothers Waste Removal Services.

That means each person in Yellowknife would have to pay $84 each year to cover the cost of garbage collection and disposal.

Currently, each household in the city pays $10 a year for the service. City council voted against raising the levy in July.

It costs about $950,000 to run the dump every year. The Solid Waste Management Fund -- which looks after the dump -- is in debt for $684,000 and runs an annual deficit of around $163,000.

There are plenty of animals at the dump. In addition to thousands of ravens, a fox trots up to new vehicles to mark its territory. The dump is completely surrounded by a fence to keep out bears, though a sign warning of bears in the area suggests the fence isn't totally successful.

A road winds up to the top of the dump. Just past the gates, on the left side, are piles of refrigerators. Underhay said they can squash 18 fridges into one bale.

Across from the fridges are row upon row of propane tanks. Up the hill, there are bales of household garbage. That's where the ravens are the thickest.

The garbage is covered but the birds still get through, strewing the landscape with colourful bits of plastic.

"It's stacked like Lego blocks," said Underhay.

Around the turn

Around a turn is a pile of brush. Beyond that is the highest part of the dump, where construction and demolition debris goes. Right now, the remains of the Gerry Murphy Arena are on top.

Past that, at the back of the dump, is where they put the contaminated soil.

Underhay said the soil comes from big industrial spills and small drips in driveways. It will all eventually be shipped south and processed to remove the contaminants.

Heading back down to the front of the dump, the road is lined with tires. At the bottom of the hill lies the salvage area. That's where people drop off things they don't want -- but think other people might be able to use.

"On summer weekends, we get 700 vehicles a day in here," said Underhay. "That's as many as on some of the main streets of Yellowknife."