The chair of the Metro Vancouver board isn’t keen about a proposal to ship the region’s garbage across the Strait of Georgia for incineration at Gold River on Vancouver Island.
Delta mayor Lois Jackson indicated that she prefers a local solution to deal with municipal waste. But she also ruled out the continued use of landfills as an option, suggesting that waste-to-energy is the way to go.
“Why would we be exporting our garbage all the way to Gold River when we could look after it ourselves at the Lower Mainland?” Jackson asked in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.
Jackson was commenting on a letter addressed to her by Gold River mayor Craig Anderson in which he stated that his municipality can be “a piece of a larger integrated plan that champions stewardships, rewards materials recovery, and ensures that energy is not wasted”.
In the letter dated August 26, 2009, Anderson told Jackson: “We commend you and your Board for the move toward Waste to Energy”¦as the way to manage the materials that are left once recycling and materials recovery is complete.”
The operation of the Gold River facility—which can take in 650,000 tonnes per year—expects to generate about $32 million a year, which Jackson noted is approximately the same amount as the $30 million that Metro Vancouver pays Wastech Services Ltd. to receive 450,000 tonnes at the company’s Cache Creek Landfill, 350 kilometres north of Vancouver.
The regional district’s incinerator in Burnaby, on the other hand, disposes of 250,000 tonnes of garbage annually and brings in $10 million in revenues for Metro Vancouver through the sale of steam and electricity, according to Jackson. “When you look at the revenue stream from an incinerator that is very close to us, handling our own garbage, that money comes back to the people that are paying for the garbage pickup,” she said.
Metro Vancouver’s current solid-waste management plan that was adopted back in 1995 doesn’t provide for new incinerators.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people out there who think that a waste-to-energy incineration program is full of dioxins and furans and all kinds of things,” Jackson said. “The science doesn’t tell us that. They’re very, very clean.”
But although the district hasn’t adopted a new plan, Vancouver-based environmentalist Helen Spiegelman pointed out that staff have recommended spending $1.2 million next year to prepare the way for the establishment of waste-to-energy facilities.
Spiegelman noted that the move was spelled out in the proposed list of priorities that will be included in a workshop by the Metro Vancouver board this month in connection with its 2010 budget.
“There’s no approved plan, and that doesn’t stop them from proposing to spend $1.2 million in that same document to talk about a process,” Spiegelman told the Straight. “They’re already budgeting money for 2010 to initiate the establishment of something that hasn’t been approved in a plan yet.”
One recommendation submitted to Metro Vancouver in June this year by consulting firm AECOM Canada Ltd. involves building a huge incinerator with an annual capacity of 750,000 tonnes.
Spiegelman also denounced as “egregious” the scheduled attendance by Surrey councillor Marvin Hunt, chair of Metro Vancouver’s waste-management committee, at an waste-to-energy conference in Toronto next month.
Based on a flyer released by conference organizer Canadian Institute, Hunt and one staff member will brief participants on the region’s plan to “build six new waste-to-energy plants” and how it was able to “incorporate public input on the proposed facilities”.
When sought for comment by the Straight, Hunt maintained that the decision to put up waste-to-energy facilities was made by the board in January 2008 when it abandoned the plan to establish a new landfill in Ashcroft Ranch in the Interior.