The Fraser Valley Regional District has drawn a line in the sand over Metro Vancouver’s plan to build a new facility to burn garbage.
Either Metro Vancouver does it outside the lower Fraser Valley, where the two regions share the same airshed, or be prepared for a fight.
These terms were spelled out by Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz and Abbotsford councillor Patricia Ross, chair and vice chair, respectively, of the FVRD. “If they decide to do it in-region, they’ll have a fight on their hands,” Gaetz told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “And it will not go away.”
Gaetz and Ross were interviewed in advance of a meeting today (September 13) of Metro’s zero-waste committee. Metro staff has completed reports relating to a new waste-to-energy plant; the district already has one in Burnaby.
Because Ross shares Gaetz’s position that burning garbage anywhere is bad, the Abbotsford politician also prefers that Metro Vancouver looks outside of the valley. “If they take waste-to-energy incineration in this airshed off the table, we are no longer their headache,” Ross told the Straight in another phone interview.
One Metro staff report recommends a reduction of the proposed plant’s capacity from the original volume of 500,000 tonnes of garbage per year to 370,000 tonnes. (The Burnaby incinerator has a capacity of 280,000 tonnes per year.)
Another report projects the facility to be opened in mid-2018. It notes that the decision to locate the facility either inside or outside the region will not be made until mid-2014 or early 2015. The same report also recommends a procurement process that begins with a technology-only request for qualifications.
Greg Moore, Metro Vancouver chair and mayor of Port Coquitlam, said the district is working with the FVRD on a consultation process outlined by B.C. minister of environment, Terry Lake.
Moore also stressed that Metro’s waste-management plan isn’t anchored on in- or out-of-region choices. “It says that we’re going to base it on the technology, the environmental aspects of the projects,” Moore told the Straight by phone. “That will be the determining factor. Not just on geography itself.” He added: “I would hope that people would have open minds to this process and hold on to their judgement of this facility until we actually have the technology in front of us [and] understand what it is being actually presented.”
The district has contacted 20 “potential vendors” that offer a variety of technologies, including mass burn, gasification, waste-to-fuel, and plasma arc.
On the same September 13 morning that members of Metro’s zero-waste committee are meeting, UBC will open its $27-million bioenergy research-and-demonstration project that utilizes gasification technology provided by Nexterra Systems Corp.
Nexterra is also one of the potential providers of waste-to-energy technologies identified by Metro staff. However, Darcy Quinn, Nexterra manager of marketing and business development, indicated that his Vancouver company isn’t interested in Greater Vancouver’s garbage.
Quinn explained that Nexterra’s waste-to-energy project at UBC utilizes wood as fuel and that its technology does not handle municipal solid waste. “It’s [municipal garbage is] a feedstock that has a lot of challenges with it, and that’s not something that we feel our technology is suited for,” Quinn told the Straight in a phone interview.
The UBC waste-to-energy facility has a capacity of 12,000 tonnes of wood waste per year, the Nexterra executive noted. Quinn also said that gasification is gaining popularity elsewhere in handling municipal waste compared to mass burning because it has the “potential to be cleaner” in terms of air emissions.
However, Abbotsford’s Ross noted that it doesn’t matter what technology is adopted by Metro Vancouver.
“All these other forms of technologies that they’re talking about, like pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc: those are all incineration,” Ross said. “Mass burn is just a different technology name.”
In March 2010, the FVRD released the findings of a study it commissioned regarding the impact of new waste-to-energy facilities in the Fraser Valley. In this paper, UBC atmospheric scientist Ian McKendry concluded that any addition of “new sources of pollution to this sensitive airshed will likely have a deleterious effect” on air quality.
At the current diversion and recycling rate of 55 percent, Metro will need to dispose of an estimated 1,090,000 tonnes of garbage annually through its two landfills and the Burnaby incinerator in 2013.
The Village of Gold River on Vancouver Island supports a proposal to turn its old pulp mill into an incinerator.
FVRD chair Gaetz noted that although she would still have concerns about Metro Vancouver shipping garbage over to Gold River, that’s a decision that her region will not be involved in: “Our job is to stand up and to protect our people that are here in the Fraser Valley.”