It was standing room only Tuesday night at the Lingan Community Heritage Centre. About 70 residents learned that the Cape Breton Regional Municipality dumped 2,000 tonnes or 4.5 million pounds of garbage at the colliery site so a local company, Bioenergy, could turn it into a type of pellet fuel.
But what started out as an innovative idea turned sour when the project didn't work out and the garbage began to build up.
As a result, area residents are concerned that the CBRM garbage that has been dumped on the site is not only leaving a stench in the air, it's lowering home values, possibly affecting their water supply and attracting birds and, yes, rodents.
So when a small grey mouse ran through the hall and up the leg of Bio-Energy spokesman Ryan Duff, it seemingly validated the concerns of nearby residents like Cameron MacDougall who already knew the area had a problem.
Another mouse was spotted at another part of the hall.
"Since this all happened, I now have to worry about rats biting my kids," said MacDougall. "It's absolutely ridiculous."
Representatives from BioEnergy, the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment and the CBRM were on hand to explain the situation. The municipality had sent its "overs," materials that cannot be composted such as plastic, glass and bottles, to Bio-Energy. Normally, the overs would have been sent to Guysborough for disposal. The overs were sent to the company until July when municipal officials became aware that nothing was being done with the garbage and that it had been collecting at the site.
The company, which now possesses the garbage, has been sorting through the product since it has to do that before it sends it out to another waste disposal site. The department of environment has issued a directive to the company, asking for a removal plan before the end of October. Duff confirmed at the meeting that the company had already sent the department a draft plan and that they were waiting feedback on it.
When asked why the company hadn't gotten rid of the garbage already, Duff said they were hoping to find another use for it.
"Once we realized we couldn't make pellets out of it, we were trying to find something else," said Duff.
But by the end of the evening, a solution emerged. CBRM solid waste manager Francis Campbell said his department would remove the 2,000 tonnes of garbage from the site over the next two week, news that was music to the ears of MacDougall.
"It's good to see the CBRM make the commitment to clean it up. I hope they follow through on it," said David White, who earlier managed to remove the fast-moving mouse from the meeting.
MacDougall echoed White's sentiments.
"As far as I'm concerned we're quite happy with how the meeting turned out — the timeline of when it's going to get cleaned up, how it's going to be get cleaned up — and we couldn't ask for more."
For Campbell, it's a situation that has to be rectified.
"We realized that it possibly could come to that and we'll work with the company that we were involved in to ensure what we committed to is done."