Regional waste plan due in fall
To landfill, or not to landfill, that is the question
By Chris Woodall
Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is still in the evaluation stage to determine what its solid waste management plan will be.
The provincial government told regional governments several years ago to come up with solid waste management plans that would reduce the amount of waste by 50 per cent. The province allowed most regional districts deadline extensions for coming up with plans.
The SLRD had a tentative plan in place which would have seen most solid waste shipped to a landfill in Washington state, but that plan was put on hold last year when cost estimates were re-evaluated.
The province is now arming regional districts with power to pass bylaws that establish a licensing system for sites and waste haulers who handle recyclable or solid waste.
Generally speaking, solid waste is what ends up at the dump. Liquid waste is what drifts down the sewer to the treatment plant.
The province is working on its Waste Management Amendment Act to put those powers in place.
"We must ensure that regional districts have the tools they need to implement solid waste management plans," says Environment, Lands and Parks minister Cathy McGregor.
Assessing the Squamish-Lillooet plan won't happen until Whistler and Squamish finish reports on their situations, says Rick Beauchamp, regional administrator.
"Their preliminary reports should be done in the next couple of months," he says.
"Then we'll evaluate whether garbage should be retained in the landfill sites, or moved elsewhere," Beauchamp says.
It won't be until early fall when the region's assessment of these reports is complete, Beauchamp says.
One of the major questions facing Whistler and Squamish is just how long the lives of their landfill sites can be extended. Last week Whistler council approved a minor expansion of the local landfill which will extend the life of the dump another three to five years. Without the expansion, which was announced last year, the landfill would have reached capacity in the next few months.
A more substantial expansion, which would increase the life of the Whistler landfill an additional five-10 years, is still under review.
The municipality is creating an environmental legacy fund with the money it collects from tipping fees. That fund could be substantially increased if the second landfill expansion is approved.
But as far as an overall plan for the regional district’s solid waste, it's too early to see what direction to take, Beauchamp says.
The reports should be available to the public when regional government staff are able to pass them on to regional councillors, Beauchamp says.
Proposed provincial amendments will help regional governments address problems in private demolition landfill sites and recycling facilities such as overfilling, abandoned piles of materials, fire hazards, local air quality concerns and costs to return the site to some kind natural state when the site is filled.
The dangers of mis-managed landfill sites are many and potentially catastrophic.
A dump specializing in used vehicle tires burned out of control for days in Hagersville, Ont., because the operator didn't have proper safety equipment or other features in place.
Former landfill sites that haven't been ventilated properly after they were closed have resulted in houses exploding because of methane buildup in the ground soils.
The province has promised safeguards in the legislation to protect the public and ensure adequate consultation.
A regional government has to let the public know of bylaws it contemplates and provide sufficient detail in its solid waste management plan how it will flex its legislative muscles.