Going to the Dump.
There was a local character who was the subject of many stories in Grand Falls-Windsor over the years. When he died there was an ongoing joke around town that there would be a state funeral….at the dump.
There is nothing like a good dump run. Take a bunch of old junk pack it up and finally dispose of it in the proper manner. The best dump runs were when the incinerator was on the go down New Bay Road. Back in high school a good friend of mine and I used to see what kind of garbage we could find, so we could drive down to the incinerator and literally fire whatever it was into one of those giant smoking boilers. The incinerator down New Bay Road was the last in a long line of dumps in Grand Falls-Windsor. And just when I thought I knew where all the dumps were I sometimes get a curve ball thrown at me and find out about another.
For this I am going to have to go backwards.
Sometime in the 1990’s after Grand Falls and Windsor had amalgamated the town decided that all garbage was going to be trucked down New Bay Road and burned in two giant incinerators. These operated until the new “super dump” opened in Norris Arm within the past few years.
Prior to that the towns of Grand Falls and Windsor had separate dumps. I recall going to both. The Grand Falls dump was located off the Trans-Canada Highway down an access road not far from the Highliner Inn. To the best of my knowledge this operated from the 1960’s or 70’s until the incinerator was built. It continued to be opened for spring cleaning for years afterwards. This was a landfill, garbage was brought in and bulldozed over and on satellite images you would hardly tell it was a dump.
Previous to this there was a dump located around the present public works depot on Duggan Street. This dump operated briefly in the late 1960’s and was discontinued after businesses started to expand into the area and there were complaints about the smell and flies. Not far away, and possibly connected at one point was another dump.
The thousands of people that come to the Salmon Festival every year probably don’t realized that they are standing on an old landfill. But Centennial Field, like Wishingwell Park in St. John’s was built on a dump.
Once upon a time Corduroy Brook was much bigger and part of it formed a pond or a steady. At some point the powers that be in Grand Falls decided to dump things in the area. Gradually the junk filled in the water and the area was “reclaimed.” I am not sure if Centennial field was a real dump or not. I have been told that it was used as a dump for spring cleaning rather than the normal organic waste. I have heard that maybe the area was the site of one of the first town dumps as well. Whatever was dumped there by the late 60’s the area had been filled in. It was decided to put a park there-a park with a new swimming pool to replace the one down by the river. This proved to be an unwise decision. The lifetime of the Centennial field pool was cut short when cracks appeared in the in the foundation of the pool, it closed after about 16 or 17 years-a result of having been built on a dump.
One of the longest and best known dump sites is also now a park. The area around Gorge Park and the helicopter pad, was for years the town dump for the town of Grand Falls. There was even an incinerator[i] there although all traces of that are gone. From what I can gather that area was the dump from at least the 1930’s right up until the 1960’s. It was the dump for everything domestic and large items included. I remember going down around there years ago and seeing what I called “meteorites”-old car batteries so corroded and deformed they looked like rocks from space. Old cars could and still can be found down there and who knows how many of them were dumped over the cliff into the river.
The earliest account of the dump off Scott Avenue that I could find was from 1937. Ironically enough it was a piece in the Advertiser detailing how the building that housed the incinerator burned down![ii]
The Windsor dump as I remember it was a dump right out of a movie. Piles of garbage and here and there some of it was on fire. Windsor dump was located off Whitmore Street Extension and when it closed I remember the rats. I was a young kid at the time but I remember people talking about the rats and I remember seeing the rats, pancaked on the roads, after the Windsor dump closed. I guess with any source of new food gone they went searching for greener pastures. This was the last dump in the town of Windsor. Prior to this there were at least two other dump sites.
Two other Windsor Dumps existed before the last one. One was located on present day Forest Road and after they had filled in that dump, a new dump was located around present day Snow Crescent. According to some residents there was also an area where old vehicles were dumped at Forest Road and after they stopped dumping household garbage they still dumped cars. Prior to the 1950’s much of Windsor was also without water or sewer so these sites were where the “honey wagons” dump the night soil collected in that part of town.
Prior to these dumps there were, no doubt, other dump sites in the former town. These were likely to have been smaller and more numerous since prior to 1938 there was no municipal government or governing body at what was then called Grand Falls Station. Without a municipal government (or the A.N.D Company) there was really nobody to take care of the garbage.
The Anglo Newfoundland Development Company and its successors also operated its own non-residential dump sites. From looking around it is apparent that the river directly adjacent to the mill was used to dump all sorts of material. There is at least fifty or sixty years’ worth of scrap metal near the bridge. A locomotive was once numbered amongst the stuff discarded at the mill scrap heap! I myself figured that there is probably some more interesting things to be found: old lift trucks, railway axels, stationary steam engines, steam winches, old construction equipment and maybe another locomotive![iii]
The mill owners also maintained a site for dumping sulfur-up across the Exploits not far from the Salmon ladder. In addition, back in the old days every logging camp maintained a dump on site. These logging camp sites were teaming with rats so much so my Great Uncle told me “if the Pied Piper had come up, the rats would have carried him away!”
Rats were common on all of the domestic waste sites which gave rise to a once popular pastime, mostly among young men. Ratting. Ratting involved heading to the dump at night, preferably in a truck-back in the old days when trucks weren’t as common- people arrived by cars and made sure to tuck their pants into their shoes when they got out! The ratters were armed with an array of weapons: sticks, bats, clubs, slingshots, but most popularly pellet guns and .22 calibre rifles. Once the ratters were ready, the lights of the vehicle were turned on which revealed the rats in huge numbers and the extermination began!
By the time I was old enough to be young and foolish enough to partake in such sport the incinerator was in operation and I don’t remember seeing a single rat down there!
Nowadays all domestic waste is shipped to the modern new mega (pronounced MAGA) dump near Norris Arm.
Most of the old dump sites have been remediated and I must say a pretty good job has been done in most of the cases. You wouldn’t be able to tell most of the sites were dumps! In fact a few of the sites are either parks or residential areas. So you might not live in a dump-but your house might be on top of one!
[i] It is interesting to note that the old GFA Elementary School had a garbage incinerator installed when it was built, It remained in the building until it was torn down a few years ago, although it probably had not been used for many, many years.
[iii] When I say this I am only half joking, the AND Company had something like 16 or more steam engines between 1905 and 1958. Most of these are accounted for as being scrapped, But it would not surprise me at all if they found a boiler or a large piece of a locomotive when they go to demolish the mill and re-mediate the site.