In a 38-31 weighted vote, the 23-member Comox Strathcona Waste Management board approved Thursday the 2015-2019 solid waste financial plan.
Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula is among the board members concerned about another multi-million dollar budget, considering the amounts being spent on hospitals, sewage, water and landfills.
The Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District adopted a $122 million budget on the same day.
“How much money is out there?” Jangula said.
Others opposed to the solid waste budget were Rod Nichol (Area B), Erik Eriksson (Courtenay), John MacDonald (Sayward), Larry Samson (Campbell River), Jim Abram (Discovery Islands), Bob Wells (Courtenay), Julie Colborne (Zeballos), Gerald Whalley (Kyuquot – Nootka/Sayward) and Michele Babchuk (Campbell River).
Favoring the budget were Roger Kishi (Cumberland), Noba Anderson (Cortes), Edwin Grieve (Area C), Manno Theos (Courtenay), Ken Grant (Comox), Jude Schooner (Tahsis), Brad Unger (Gold River), Brenda Leigh (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake), Ron Kerr (Campbell River), Charlie Cornfield (Campbell River) and board chair Bruce Jolliffe (Area A).
Andrew Adams (Campbell River) and Barbara Price (Comox) did not attend.
Had the budget not passed, Kishi said the solid waste service would have to shut down.
“There would be no budget for solid waste, so that means all the landfills would have to close.”
Last year, the CSWM approved borrowing $45 million-plus to close the Cumberland landfill ($10,620,000), close the Campbell River facility ($13 million-plus) and to expand the Cumberland landfill into an engineered facility ($21,550,000).
The latter consists of excavation and construction of storm water ponds, re-contouring, and installing a geomembrane liner to control storm water and leachate, among other installations.
The project includes closing 70 per cent of the existing landfill.
Closing and capping the Cumberland dump will give it a 20-year span, Jangula notes.
“But in 20 years that membrane will break down,” he said.
Phase 1 of the closure has been budgeted at $8,050,000. Pending board approval, construction could be complete by October.
“This matter is not over,” said Jangula, noting the need to consider Waste to Energy (WTE) systems. “It could save us literally tens of millions.”
“The public wants to go that way, there’s no question,” Nichol said of WTE.
The Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) includes WTE as a future option. However, as it stands, the Environment Ministry won’t approve WTE until the region reaches the 70 per cent diversion target, Kishi notes.
“When Waste to Energy becomes an option for us, you’re still going to require a landfill,” he said. “Whatever process you do for WTE, there’s usually something leftover at the end. A lot of times that end product becomes more concentrated and sometimes even more toxic than the stuff that went in at the beginning.”
The board also approved terms of reference of an Island-wide special committee on solid waste.
“Is there a way that the whole Island can work together to deal with solid waste?” Kishi said. “Each region has different challenges, but we all have challenges in dealing with solid waste.”
The CSWM operating budget is $11,754,067. The capital budget is $11,142,444.