When business and environment meet

Bird diverters on hydro wires discourage eagles and crows flocking to the 7-MIle Landfill and Recycling Facility from getting electrocuted. Photo: Ken Manning -
Bird diverters on hydro wires discourage eagles and crows flocking to the 7-MIle Landfill and Recycling Facility from getting electrocuted. Photo: Ken Manning
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Sometimes looking after the environment is good for business. The staff at the 7-Mile Landfill & Recycling Facility have discovered exactly that.

Even though the refuse pile is capped every night and fencing keeps out larger four-legged scroungers like bears, many other animals call the landfill home. The facility, located on Highway 19 between Port McNeill and the Port Alice junction, is home to large flocks of bald eagles, ravens, gulls, and abandoned cats.

Tired of finding injured and dead electrocuted eagles under the high-tension wires that feed the facility, and concerned about the subsequent loss of power to the facility, Patrick Donaghy and Karl Digby asked B.C. Hydro what could be done.

B.C. Hydro installed bird diverters on the wires, making them more visible and reducing the likelihood of eagles accidentally flying into them. It also relocated the wires from the top side of the hydro pole crossbars to the bottom, affording eagles a safe perch on top of the poles.

“This is a situation where being environmentally responsible is also operationally smart,” said Donaghy, operations manager for Mount Waddington Regional District.

The 7-Mile facility is not the only site where B.C. Hydro has made environmental improvements at the expense of its bottom line. In March of 2009, B.C. Hydro completed a similar $183,000 system improvement project to replace 18 spans of line along Argonaut Road in Campbell River, making them more visible to eagles in flight. They also relocated the lines to keep eagles that fly between the wires or perch on the poles from being electrocuted. Similar projects have been completed in other B.C. communities.

Abandoned cats also call the landfill home. Although he has no definitive evidence people are abandoning cats to avoid the new licensing fee structure imposed in Port Hardy, Digby, the site supervisor, has noticed an increase in the number of cats being abandoned at the facility that coincided with the announcement of the new regulations, fees, and fines.

“We’ve had a sudden increase in the number of cats we find abandoned out here. We don’t have any proof, but it’s probably more than a coincidence,” said Digby.

The staff at the facility made a home for one cat that was abandoned some time ago. It was a good mouser, so they used their own money to have it neutered made it an unofficial member of the team. In return the cat regularly hauls home the results of its mousing expeditions.

Any additional cats that appear at the facility are captured and given to the S.P.C.A. with the hope that a good home can be found.

Donaghy acknowledges that rodents are endemic to landfills. The cats and eagles help keep the rodent problem under control, he said.

Of course, cats can also become prey to eagles, in the circle of life, so not everything is perfect at 7-Mile Landfill and Recycling.

The symbiotic relationship doesn’t extend to all species. Sometimes the environment give business a headache.

A large flock of ravens also call the 7-Mile facility home. Donaghy gives a wry chuckle when he tells the story of planting seedlings one day and the next day finding the ravens had pulled them all up.

They planted the seedlings a second time and – sure enough – found every one of them neatly plucked from the ground. Score: ravens 1, humans 0.

Speculating on why the ravens might have done that, Donaghy thought maybe the mischievous ravens, who are ranked among the brightest of animals when it comes to problem solving, were simply bored.

The rubber membrane on one of the trailer roofs also fell victim to the ravens who repeatedly tugged and pulled at it exposing the roof to weather until the staff were forced to cover the roof with metal, admitting defeat once again. Score: ravens 2, humans 0.

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