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Lots of questions up in the air over landfill fire

Posted on December 3, 2013 by 40 Mile Commentator

For the past few weeks the Westar Landfill has been ablaze, sending plumes of smoke into the atmosphere, and choking out the residents of Cypress County and Medicine Hat both.

Since the fire started Monday, Nov. 18, many thought it would be a simple over night battle to reduce the flames.

When the sun rose the next day it was clear this was more than the average fire.

Fighting the blaze in an 80 ft. deep landfill, emergency crews have been worked off their feet for two weeks, and after bringing in a fire suppression service, there is a possible end in sight.

But the question doesn’t revolve around the fighting of the fire, but more around the damage done.

A landfill that was not regularly maintained and operated has cost Cypress County over $1 million, and several residents to evacuate from their homes for as long as the fire has raged.

In a recent article in a local publication, a previous employee of the Westar Landfill had come forward, explaining there were many items thrown into the pit that should not be accepted in a Class 3 landfill.

From tires, fridges, propane tanks, to fruit and vegetable waste, the landfill has built up an excess of hazardous material for the past 15 years.

Local residents have complained of loose plastics blowing their way, and of popping and banging sounds coming from the landfill.

To have a landfill so improperly maintained is unacceptable, and those in charge have yet to step up for their mistakes

Terry Schmunk, owner of the landfill, has yet to comment or return the calls of local media, and has not made an appearance since the fire started.

Although the landfill is private property, some of the blame falls on Cypress County as well. It was not their responsibility to maintain the landfill but they still had the obligation to keep an eye on operations to make sure no improper activity was occurring.

Now, as the bill increases, taxpayers are looking for answers that no one can give them.

How did the fire start? What are the consequences? Who is going to pay for this?

On Sunday night a fine rain fell over the area, bringing toxins from the smoky air down to the ground.

There are evacuated residents who will have to spend days and money to clean up their properties from the smoke residue before being able to return home.

Ted Clugston, mayor of Medicine Hat, made a comment that although the cause of the fire is unknown it did seem suspicious, and he is not the only one who has made this statement.

Crews are working hard to get the fire put out and reduce the impact of the smoke on the local area, but that doesn’t stop the suspicions and questions coming forward.

Despite the cost, things had to be done to put out the hazardous blaze, and the crews working day and night have done a tremendous job, but somebody has to pay for the mistake, and it all boils down to that one thing.

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