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After facing sinkholes, nesting birds and rodents, the Sechelt dump drop-off finally opens

After buried drywall from decades ago caused sinkholes at the landfill drop-off, the creation of a new area was expected to take a few months. The birds, rodents and weather had other ideas. A year and $1.7 million later, Sunshine Coast Regional District directors and staff gathered at the Dusty Road site for a tour and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

After facing sinkholes, a protected bird species, rodent infestation and difficult weather conditions, the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) new drop-off area at the Dusty Road landfill site is finally — officially — open.

SCRD directors and staff gathered on May 26 for a tour of the new layout and a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The tour kicked off next to the sinkholes (or ground disturbances) that started it all when they were discovered in early 2020. 

Superintendent of solid waste operations Corrina Suveges told tour members that it was common practice in the 1980s to bury drywall in pits (a practice allowed at the Sechelt Landfill until the late ‘90s). When ground cavities opened up in recent years, the SCRD had to make a temporary drop-off area until the new one was complete. Ground-penetrating radar was used to assess the site, and rapid impact compaction (RIC) pounded the cavities. Some of the sinkholes are still visible behind caution tape today, since “mindful of taxpayers’ money,” Suveges explained the regional district only compacted the area that would be used for public drop offs.

Work on the project began in May 2021 and was expected to be completed by the end of that August, but the project had a few setbacks, from a federally protected bird species (tree swallows) nesting in the new materials to a rat infestation and a drought-ending downpour on the day the new scale house was moved in. With these came requests for increased funds, and the project concluded with a total of  $1.7 million spent for engineering and construction, communications manager Aidan Buckley told Coast Reporter. The official opening ceremony itself was rescheduled from November.

Now, the drop-off area has a new traffic pattern and yellow traffic arms. “Some of the public kind of thought maybe they're supposed to drive up to the arms and hit them,” Suveges told the tour group, inspiring a laugh. “Staff had to learn the timing of when to lower the arm, but I can assure you no vehicles were damaged.”

Different trailers and bins accept materials, including mattresses. The SCRD, Suveges said, accepts an average of 4,600 mattresses a year. A new structure gives site staff a place to get out of the weather. Suveges thanked the landfill staff for maintaining their work throughout the project’s construction.

“This is like the most picturesque landfill ever,” Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt remarked on the view from the site.

“This drop-off area will serve us for a very long time,” general manager of infrastructure services Remko Rosenboom said. Once the Dusty Road landfill reaches capacity, the drop-off area will be used as a transfer station.

“We have a functional drop-off area that ensures the public can drop off waste in an efficient and, most importantly, safe manner,” SCRD chair Darnelda Siegers said before cutting the ribbon. “Planning is in full swing right now for what's next.” 

The current landfill is expected to reach capacity by 2025. Waste diversion programs hope to extend its life. 

As the tour concluded and after the ribbon was cut, there was already a line of three vehicles lined up outside the landfill, waiting for the gate to open.