Waste Management and Resource Development

Facilitating Sustainable Waste Management in a Northern Community and Resource Development Context at Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador

Project Lead: Catherine Keske, Associate Professor,  School of Science and the Environment, Environmental Studies (ECON), Memorial University of Newfoundland – Grenfell Campus (ckeske@grenfell.mun.ca)

Morgon Mills, Program Coordinator, Labrador Institute of Memorial University
Joinal Abedin, Soil Scientist, Labrador Institute of Memorial University

Jason Dicker, Masters student, Memorial University-Grenfell Campus

Community Partners:
Julianne Griffin, Director of Development and Research, Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Frank Brown, Superintendent of Works, Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Tammy Lambourne, Co-Executive Director, Healthy Waters Labrador
Mike Hickey, Owner, Hickey Construction (Municipal waste collection contractor)

September 2016 to February 2018

Update: May 2018 – Biochar enterprise budget, preparing publications

Following successful presentations of our research program and preliminary results at the Labrador Research Forum and 16th International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium, both in 2017, our project has advanced through the analysis stage and we are now focused on the final steps of preparing publications.  This April, one article appeared in Northern Public Affairs: “Industrial Mega-Projects and Waste Management in Northern Communities” (Mills and Keske, 2018), and two academic papers have undergone peer review and are presently being revised for publication: one in Detritus and the other in The Northern Review (Keske, Mills, Tanguay, and Dicker).  Research assistant Laura Tanguay has joined the project team and is providing invaluable contributions to preparing this work for publication.

We have also completed a stage of economic analysis, led by research assistant (and recent Master’s graduate supervised by ReSDA Theme Coordinator Brenda Parlee) Todd Godfrey, who has developed an enterprise budget for the potential local production of biochar from timber cleared for the Muskrat Falls hydro-electric project near Happy Valley-Goose Bay.  Todd’s work investigates one possible means for a northern community to derive value from the waste associated with major resource development.  Further analysis and discussion will follow, led by Keske, and knowledge-sharing opportunities and publication will be sought thereafter.  (Our project timeline has been extended to February 2019.)


Previous considerations of waste management in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay (HVGB) region have been primarily of two kinds: studies of how to manage municipal waste collection, and diverse environmental studies associated with the existing landfill, past landfills, or military dumping sites.  Neither kind has addressed the question of waste from resource development projects; neither has considered possible opportunities for benefitting from association with resource development projects; and neither has provided a holistic economic analysis.

The Town of HVGB is presently acting on the recommendations of a Solid Waste Management Study completed in January 2013 by SNC Lavalin, Inc., around curbside waste collection, waste diversion, and landfill upgrading and expansion.  However, the municipality also recognizes the limitations of the consultants’ narrow, model-based study, and desires a more direct consideration of the impacts and opportunities associated with the waste generated by Muskrat Falls.

At the same time, communities across the North are faced with similar decisions about waste management.  This reality was recently made most highly visible in Iqaluit, but it also applies to all regions that share similar challenges of geography (poor access to transportation, slow decay rates, lack of soil, small and dispersed communities, etc.), and similar socio-economic, cultural, and political circumstances. This is particularly true in the context of nearby resource development projects, or in locations housing workers associated with such projects.  The lessons learned in HVGB will therefore also be of value to communities in the territories and northern provinces, and to some extent abroad.

Recognizing this opportunity, the present project will expand the Labrador Institute’s existing partnership with the Town of HVGB and other community partners.  The project will be led by Dr. Catherine Keske of Memorial’s Grenfell Campus, who is an economist specializing in contemporary resource and policy issues, and assisted by co-applicant Morgon Mills, who has local expertise as a program coordinator and PhD student at the Labrador Institute.  It also represents an extension of the work of co-applicant Dr. Joinal Abedin, whose research is funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the NL Department of Business, Tourism, Culture, and Rural Development, and Memorial University.  Dr. Abedin’s work focuses on leachate and greenhouse gas emissions, but he will also contribute to this project his expertise associated with applications of biochar, one possible product associated with the waste generated at Muskrat Falls.


ReSDA’s primary objective is to assist northern communities in increasing benefits and mitigating negative impacts from resource development. This project directly targets that objective in the area of waste management, by considering opportunities to benefit from waste associated with resource development, and by determining whether tipping fee structures are sufficient to offset the additional financial costs of development-related wastes to landfill maintenance and life expectancy.  The project will primarily address the ReSDA theme of Sustainable Communities, by focusing on sustainable waste management for better social and economic outcomes, but will also be very relevant to the theme of Sustainable Environments.

Methodology and Timeline

Year 1: Sept 2016-Aug 2017

  • Literature reviews, qualitative data collection and processing, situation assessment
  • A review of historical waste management practices and studies in the region and in analogous circumstances across the north (rural and/or aboriginal communities, particularly those impacted by resource development)
  • A review of relevant literature associated with capturing value from resource development waste streams
  • Consultations with local experts (waste collectors, landfill management, town policy-makers, community groups, local businesses associated with work at Muskrat Falls, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
  • Contacts with Muskrat Falls work site contractors regarding availability of and plans for stockpiled waste not presently accepted at the landfill (e.g. wood), and consultations about waste management from the developer’s perspective
  • Synthesis of literature review findings, consultation outcomes, and qualitative data
  • Production of a “situation assessment” documenting current community waste management practices and economic outcomes in the region, including (but not necessarily limited to) the Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Sheshatshiu, North West River, and Mud Lake communities
  • Presentation of interim results to the community, and Town Hall style meeting soliciting community feedback
  • Dissemination of results (via conference and/or publication)

Year 2: Sept 2017-February 2018

  • Quantitative economic analysis, identification and assessment of opportunities, formulation of recommendations
  • Characterization of current municipal and resource-development waste streams, and assessment of the relative impacts of resource development on various waste streams
  • Economic assessment of the municipal tipping fee structure, in view of increased management costs and diminished landfill life expectancy
  • Consideration of indirect waste production (e.g. increases in waste production caused by the presence of the Muskrat Falls project, but not originating on site, and therefore not captured in tipping fees)
  • Identification and analysis of additional economic opportunities for the Town of HVGB, associated with materials currently accepted at the landfill
  • Identification and analysis of potential additional economic opportunities for the community, associated with resource development waste currently stockpiled on site and not accepted at the landfill
  • Additional local consultations as necessary, to assess viability of identified high-potential opportunities
  • Formulation of recommendations for the municipality and for the community in general, and generation of reports
  • Sharing of final results with partners, and presentation of final results to the community
  • Dissemination of results (via conference and/or publication)

Anticipated Outcomes

This project will not only directly benefit the local region, including HVGB, North West River and Sheshatshiu, but it will also have implications for how communities in similar positions across the North might position themselves to achieve positive outcomes from resource developments through opportunities associated with waste management. There will be opportunities throughout the project for comparative work regarding the communities within the study region, which may be of relevance to aboriginal and non-aboriginal community decision-makers in other areas where waste management falls within different jurisdictions.  Further, the project will support ongoing community development and capacity-building in sustainable, economically and environmentally sound behaviours, as exemplified by recent changes in municipal policy, successes by community groups like Healthy Waters Labrador, and stewardship initiatives sponsored by local aboriginal agencies.

This study presents opportunity to improve waste management practices within the study region and across the North.

Results will be disseminated within the academic community by peer-reviewed publication, participation in ReSDA’s annual workshop, and attendance at a conference relevant to the discipline.  Results will be shared directly with municipal policy makers, including the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a key collaborator; with other community partners who have influence upon policy decisions and community practices; and to the community members themselves, through simple summary documents and two in-person public presentations of the results.

For more information contact:

Catherine Keske
School of Science and the Environment, Environmental Studies (ECON)
Memorial University Newfoundland-Grenfell Campus
Corner Brook, NL

Email: ckeske@grenfell.mun.ca

Researcher info: http://www.grenfell.mun.ca/academics-and-research/Pages/Bachelor-of-Arts/Environmental-Studies/Faculty-and-Staff/Catherine-Keske.aspx