Cancer prevention group urges Metro Vancouver board to reject incineration

The Ottawa-based group Prevent Cancer Now sent Metro Vancouver directors the following letter today (July 30):

Greater Vancouver Regional District Board
C/o Metro Vancouver Head Office
4330 Kingsway, Burnaby, B.C. V5H 4G8

Re: July 30th vote on Metro Vancouver’s Solid Waste Management Plan

You are on the verge of making a major decision that could significantly affect the health and financial well-being of your constituents and neighbouring communities. We do not believe that you have enough information before you to know with certainty that pollution from an incinerator would not increase cancer rates in your communities. Consider, as just one such reference, the often cited February 2010 UK Health Promotion Agency report summary that states: “it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from modern, well managed municipal waste incinerators with complete certainty."

We are monitoring several incineration proposals across Canada including Metro’s and the proposed incinerator environmental assessment (EA) study conducted by Durham and York Regions in Ontario, which is proposing a mass burn incinerator similar to what Metro Vancouver appears to be considering. We wish to inform you that the Durham-York project has NOT been approved by the Ontario Minister of the Environment.

Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) is a national organization whose mission is to raise awareness about preventable causes of cancer and avoidable exposures to carcinogens. We endeavour to educate and thus empower citizens to interact effectively with all levels of government to help ensure policies are enacted that promote healthy communities. Since 2008, we have run a campaign to raise awareness around the risks of municipal solid waste incineration, including the health risks of carcinogens emitted to air as well as to land and water via ash residues.

The Durham-York EA studies confirm that incinerators emit many tonnes of particulate matter, heavy metals, acid gases and organic pollutants, including carcinogens. Durham’s studies and decision-making processes provide useful insights into the range of issue that every municipality should carefully consider before they consider burning garbage.

You do not need to rush this. Unlike other communities with garbage problems, you have options that would allow you to limit public health risks and better manage costs. Metro is fortunate in that existing infrastructure could accommodate your needs while waste reduction and diversion strategies are more fully implemented and residual waste volumes reduced. Unpredictable and excessive incinerator costs could severely constrain your municipalities from being able to implement safer and more sustainable waste reduction initiatives.

We urge the Metro Board to reject the incinerator options in your plan – both in region and out of region - and to defeat recommendations that propose incineration of residuals as an option.

We would appreciate being advised of the Board’s decision and we are available to speak with you at your convenience.

Yours truly,

Jake Cole Co-chair Prevent Cancer Now
Dave Renaud Chair PCN Incineration Committee