Among the businesses present were Nor-Vac Industrial Services, Pratt Water Service, Steck Services, Alcan Sewer, and Northern Waste Water Services, along with Peace River Regional District Area B Director Karen Goodings, and representatives from Northern Health, Century 21 Energy Realty, and MLA Pat Pimm’s office. The group was notably disappointed that no members of Fort St. John’s City Council attended. 

All present agreed that changing the hours that trucks can dump in from 24/7, 365 days a year to only 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday effective October 1, 2013, would have major ramifications on the industry and the estimated 1,200 to 1,800 customers affected. They include increased waiting times for trucks as they all try to work within that time frame, which would mean less service and increased costs to ensure they can still hire drivers. 

“You have provided that for years, and you’ve built a building for that, now you’re shutting us down in very short notice,” Jack Gilmore of Alcan Sewer argues of the City. “In my view, and I think the rest of you guys agree with me, next month is basically almost a shut down for sewer.” 

The meeting was mostly focused on coming up with alternatives to having the station open only during regular business hours. Among the options presented were paying extra per load in order to have the station manned 24/7, implementing a two-tier system where companies with a good track record would have full access, and providing a large deposit that the City could keep in the event that a user commits an infraction. Carol Kube of Nor-Vac suggests cancelling the fobs, or keys, that are currently out, and having the city inspect each truck before reissuing them.

“People that can abide by the laws, they get a key or a punchcode, so they can dump 24/7,” she explains. “The people that they’re not sure of, or the people that have had infractions over and over again, they’re limited to the 8 to 5, Monday to Friday so they can have a paid person there to monitor them.” 

Kube also pointed to Quesnel as having this issue around five years ago, and solved it by authorizing two companies to use their wastewater transfer station. 

The main factor behind the decision to close the Wastewater Transfer Station comes from the contamination of the city’s lagoons from waste other than domestic wastewater being brought in. The general consensus in the room was that the companies present were paying for the bad actions of the others, and that the City isn’t doing enough to crack down on the offenders. 

“Accidents will happen, but it’s people that are blatantly breaking the rules,” says Garry Brimacombe of Nor-Vac. “A $1,000 fine, as far as I’m concerned, if somebody is blatantly breaking the rules, is nothing. Add a zero. The second time, add two!” 

“We’re all being penalized for other people’s wrongdoings, which isn’t right,” adds Mike Steck of Steck Services. “We’ve all taken pictures of trucks that don’t belong there, and you phone [City Hall] and say, ‘hey, this guy’s in here and he doesn’t belong here,’ and it’s, ‘oh well, we’ll just look at it on the video.’ Well then they’ve already unloaded and it’s too late. When we police something for them, they should do something about it.” 

The matter isn’t on the agenda for Monday’s council meeting, and unless a councillor brings it up on their own, the next meeting it could be discussed at isn’t after the new hours are implemented in October. If nothing is done to rescind the decision or delay the reduction of hours, the fear is that unattended sewers will pose a health problem, which Environmental Health Officer Sarah MacDougall says Northern Health is monitoring. 

“At this point in time our stance is that it’s really up to the Regional District and the City to try to come to some kind of agreement to figure this out,” she told the room. “We simply just don’t want to see any health hazards created.” 

Goodings confirmed that the issue will be on the PRRD’s agenda at its meeting next week, but warned that as it does not have a sewer function, the legalities of it building a new facility will have to be first clarified.