A new landfill cell, constructed in 2017 at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre, is starting to fill. Photo supplied

Cell 1 starts to fill at Waste Management Centre

Rod Nichol feels regional directors and staff are dragging their heels when it comes to advanced technology — or “advanced recycling” — to deal with solid waste disposal. The former Area B director advocates practices such as pelletizing garbage before it hits the landfill, and turning plastic into diesel fuel.

“We can no longer bury our garbage,” said Nichol, who feels too much is being spent each month to bury garbage at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre in Cumberland.

The CVRD, however, says the least costly alternate technology is significantly higher than landfilling.

Nichol notes a Halifax-based company, Sustane Technologies, is building a state-of-the-art plant in Nova Scotia where solid wastes will be transformed to fuels and recyclable materials at lower costs than landfills.

“They will come here and build the plant at their expense,” Nichol said. “So there’s no liability on behalf of the CVRD.”

But the company would still charge a tipping fee for waste disposal.

“Our waste to energy consultant estimated that it would cost the taxpayer an additional $77 million over the next 30 years if an alternative technology was implemented instead of landfilling,” said Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services at the Comox Valley Regional District.

Last year, the CVRD started filling a new cell that was constructed in 2017 at the Waste Management Centre. Cell One cost about $7.2 million to construct, and will provide about six years of capacity before an additional cell is required. The new landfill will eventually have three cells constructed, and provide 25 years of capacity. Cells Two and Three will provide about eight and 11 years respectively.

Sustane Technologies is one of two companies short-listed by the Solid Waste Advanced Technology (SWAT) select committee, comprising directors on the Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) board. The other is Waste Treatment Technologies (WTT). Both have presented to the board, which directed staff to monitor the technology that Sustane is installing at a facility in Chester, N.S.

Thursday’s CSWM board meeting considered the terms of reference for SWAT. Area B director Arzeena Hamir, a SWAT committee member, notes the Environment Ministry has set a 350 kilogram/person diversion threshold before any advanced technology is approved. She also questions consideration around the carbon footprint of the technology.

“Where is the final product going?” she said. “Is it being burned, or is it going back in the ground?”

Fellow SWAT committee member Jim Abram, Area C director for the Strathcona Regional District, praised Hamir for her comments.

Abram also took issue with the proposed 2019-2023 financial plan for the CSWM service, which proposes no change to tipping fees for 2019. He is opposed to a tax requisition financing the service.

“I would be more likely to support the budget if we were to increase our tipping fees,” Abram said. “We have kept them unbelievably low for many years, and have not seen any negative impact to doing that. I would propose that we think about increasing the tipping fees, reducing the tax assessment, and get away from taxing all of our citizens, area-wide, for this service.”

CVRD Area C director Edwin Grieve said Abram’s idea could work if the district was only running a waste collection service. However, he notes the province has mandated the closure and monitoring of all “historic, non-compliant landfills” as part of the solid waste plan.

“This is at huge costs to the region and dwarfs the costs of establishing the new engineered cell at the Comox Valley site,” Grieve said following the meeting. He believes the way forward is to follow the provincial mandate to divert 70 per cent of organics from the CSWM waste-stream. “The big cost facing us is the closure of the landfills, and for that we must use taxation.”

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