The Regional District of Nanaimo reviewed curbside collection services during the 2021 Christmas season, when they were significantly disrupted by adverse weather conditions.
Measures were recommended by staff to avoid major inconvenience in the future. They were discussed at the RDN’s Solid Waste Select Committee and received for information at its meeting, May 11, following the report presented by zero waste co-ordinator, Kirsten Gellein.
Gellein said last winter’s heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures were unprecedented, the most severe experienced by the regional district since curbside collection service was initiated region-wide in 1989. For 17 days, the region endured 109.8 centimetres of snow and 10 free-thaw cycles. The highest snowfall was recorded on Jan. 5, with 49.2 centimetres.
Gellein said the adverse weather resulted in unsafe roads that needed to be cleared of snow and ice. By Dec. 31, five routes had disrupted garbage collection service and an attempt was made to restore it as quickly as possible. But the plan was further delayed by more snow that unexpectedly fell on the region on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7.
“Hindsight is 20/20 as we all know,” said Gellein. “The result was chaotic to both operations and communication. So it took 12 regular collection days of interruptions before we could resume regular collection schedule. And 10 days to restore service for five routes.”
Communication was another challenge the RDN had to overcome during the disruptions, said Gellein.
“We required daily updates that included some statutory holidays and weekends with specific messaging for the five routes and sub-routes that was broken down by area on where the status was on our restoration schedule and percentage that each route was completed.”
Gellein said they tried their best to disseminate information.
The RDN currently has an adverse weather operational policy that includes guidelines to restore missed collection but some relate to manual collection and are no longer applicable to the current automated system. Gellein said the RDN does not have the resources on hand to do manual collection anymore.
The RDN has amended the current policy and put in place some measures that include waiving tipping fees of resident curbside materials at both the regional landfill and the Church Road Transfer Station.
In preparation for the coming winter, the RDN wants to make all residents aware of the policy on adverse weather events and know how to access information during service delays. They will all be included in the 2023 curbside calendar mailout.
“Updating, communicating and adhering to the adverse weather operational policy will result in higher operational resilience, easy-to-follow, consistent communications and no increase in the cost of service,” said Gellein.