UPDATE: Firefighters continue to battle fire at McGee Lake dump site, Environment officials continue emergency order

Environment Canada issues special air quality statement for Kings County

John Decoste jdecoste@kingscountynews.ca
Published on March 26, 2016

KENTVILLE - Volunteer firefighters are on the scene of the fire at the dump southwest of Kentville again March 26.

Kentville Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Martin said that yesterday's heavy rain only made the scene more of a quagmire to work in.

"The rain repelled off," said Martin. "It's quite a mess, but we're dealing with it."

He added that three excavators and one bulldozer are on site assisting and two aerial units continue to pour water on the blaze.

Martin estimates crews will be working the rest of today and then he is hopeful the scene can be coated in sand or gravel if the fire is out.

Wet weather and cold temperatures have dampened the spirits of the volunteers at North River Road, but yesterday a raft of food donations cheered them up.

According to Martin, "hot soups started arriving at the station. There were tables of it. That picked everybody's spirits up. It was good to see."

Environment Canada continues to indicate that smoke produced by the fire is impacting surrounding communities based on the wind direction. One North Mountain resident said she could smell the fire when she went outside near Burlington.

“The public is advised to stay inside if you have breathing difficulties,” the special air quality statement said. “Individuals may experience symptoms such as increased coughing, throat irritation, headaches and shortness of breath.

“Children, seniors and those with cardiovascular or lung disease, such as asthma, are especially at risk.”

People with lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, “can be particularly sensitive to air pollution. They will generally experience more serious health effects at lower levels.”

Pollution, in turn, ”can aggravate their diseases, leading to increased medication use, doctor and emergency room visits, and hospital visits.

“Be air aware,” the statement said. “Check your local weather forecasts and alerts so you know when to take extra care.”

Speaking March 24, Heather Fairbairn, a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, said “the first priority at this point is ensuring the fire is extinguished safely, and fire crews are on scene to do that.”

She added, “inspectors from Nova Scotia Environment are also at the site to ensure there are no impacts to the environment as a result of the fire.”

Fairbairn said the last inspection at the site was March 10.

"Based on our findings, the Department issued a directive to the operators to remove all non-C&D materials from the disposal cell by May 25, 2016. Inspectors found the cell also contained municipal solid waste and recyclable materials.”

Effective March 24, Fairbairn said, ”the Department issued an emergency order for the facility to cease operations so no new material (is) being received by the waste transfer site and processing facility.”

As of 6 p.m.  March 24, she said, “we are still gathering information in order to determine if any additional violations may have occurred.”

In 2015, KingsCountyNews.ca reported the company was fined for knowingly contravening a term or condition of their approval to operate under the Environment Act Dec. 1, 2014. Owners Derek and Barbara Shaffer pleaded guilty in Kentville provincial court Sept. 23 to the charge and were fined $1,153.95.

The McGee Lake Watershed Protected Water Area,   a back up source of drinking water for the Town of Kentville, “is about 2.5 kilometres from the C&D disposal facility.

“At this time,” Fairbairn said, “the Department has no reason to believe the watershed would be impacted by activities at the site.”

There are currently 25 approved C&D waste disposal operations in Nova Scotia. All are inspected and monitored at regular intervals.

The site is close to Camp Brigadoon - a facility for children with chronic illness. A spokeswoman for the camp confirmed March 24 that there were no camps scheduled for the Easter long weekend.

There was a camp during the week, Brigadoon's Jen Kelday said, but "there were no children with health problems on the site and we were in constant contact with the Kentville Deputy Fire Chief."




With files from Wendy Elliott and Jennifer Hoegg