Cleaning up Fort McMurray's wildfire will test the city's ability to handle everything from asbestos to rotting food and leave a lasting legacy of higher costs and dangerous residue.
So says Tom Moore — and he should know. Moore manages the landfill at Slave Lake, where one-third of the town was gutted by a fire five years ago this month.
"It overwhelms you," Moore recalled Thursday. "I received, in about four months time, about three years of waste into my facility."
Moore said the landfill took in about 40,000 tonnes of waste after the fire destroyed more than 400 buildings. The influx forced the dump to expand as well as to buy bigger equipment and upgrade its roads.
"There are landfills in Alberta that receive hundreds of thousands of tonnes every year," said Moore. "But if all of a sudden they're receiving four times that, in a short period of time, that's devastating."
Most of the concrete and metal was recycled, but much of the rest of that waste was problematic.
"All of the houses have been shut off from their power. Now you've got refrigerators full of food. You have to handle that safely so nobody gets sick and nobody gets exposed to that."