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Before Slave Lake could rebuild, Tom Moore had to clear – and recycle – the rubble

Individual Commitment: Clean Slate

Aug 1, 2012

by Alix Kemp

When wildfires tore through Slave Lake in May 2011, they did more than destroy homes and businesses. In addition to the swaths of burnt forest and burnt-out homes, the fire also left in its wake toxic chemicals in the soil, like arsenic and lead. Before rebuilding could begin, Slave Lake needed to be swept clean of debris and any chemical contaminants, a process that could potentially cause further environmental problems. But Tom Moore, the manager of the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Landfill, was determined to do the cleanup in as ecologically friendly a manner as possible.

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“To me, it only makes sense. I live here, and I didn’t want the area that I live in to be contaminated. I have kids, grandkids that live here,” Moore says. “Just because we have a disaster, that doesn’t give us a licence to not look at the environmental impact.”

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Rather than simply pile up the debris at the landfill, Moore and the contractors who helped with the cleanup recycled the concrete, metal and wood left behind. The wood, for instance, was chipped on-site and shipped to a nearby electrical plant to be used for power generation. Meanwhile, as much of the work as possible was done on-site, either in town or at the landfill, in order to reduce shipping costs and carbon emissions from trucking heavy loads of material across the province.
Clearing the rubble of the destroyed homes wasn’t the only job Moore and his team faced. In homes spared by the fire, the contents of refrigerators were left rotting after the town’s power went out and residents evacuated. After nearly two weeks, residents had to dispose of some 4,000 refrigerators. Moore oversaw their cleaning, which involved draining the Freon gases, baling them up and shipping them to Edmonton to be recycled.

With rebuilding now moving ahead, Moore is proud of his role in clearing the way. “I feel pretty comfortable that their lots are cleared to where there are no contaminants there, so they’re moving back into an area that’s clean.” Not that his work is done, though – the landfill manager is still working with contractors to recycle waste from the rebuilding effort and minimize the environmental impacts of construction.

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