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Compost facility will cost almost $1 million to operate

Municipality hopes to recover most of this cost through sale of bio-products, tipping fees

Getting rid of organic garbage is not cheap, with the new $12 million compost facility expected to cost almost $1 million a year to run.

A $900,000 operating budget for the facility was included in a report to council on Monday, though no councillors commented on it.

“We think it is not a question of value for money, it is a question of a combination of the best environmental practice and having chosen this as an option to deal with our bio-solids, which we are compelled to find a solution to,” Mayor Ken Melamed said Wednesday.

He added that at this point, council has already committed to the compost facility and its operating budget is not something the politicians can now trim.

The controversial project has come under public scrutiny when its capital budget jumped from $6 million to $12 million within two-months of being approved in August.

“We’ve committed to dealing with bio-solids through a composting system, so we have to go ahead with that,” said Melamed.

“I think the sense that council has and many members of the community have is that there is a bonus that comes from having made that choice in that now we can compost all types of materials that come from the Whistler resort,” he said.

Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental services for the municipality, said the money will come from the Solid Waste Utility, a self-funded utility which gets money from residential user fees and tipping fees.

The preliminary $900,000 cost includes:

• $580,000 for contract services to a company like Carney’s to operate the facility;

• $60,000 for B.C. Hydro electrical system;

• $110,000 for maintenance and repairs of the facility;

• $76,000 for a contingency fund; and

• Other minor costs.

Barnett added the maintenance costs will also be lowered for the first few years of the brand-new compost facility’s operation.

“And then as those things get older, they will need more maintenance,” he explained.

The municipality also hopes to mitigate much of the operating costs. It has calculated revenue of approximately $700,000 a year through tipping fees and the sale of sludge from the sewage plant, wood waste, and compost. This would bring the net cost down to $200,000 a year.

The possibility of selling bio-fuel is also being explored. But Barnett said the bio-fuel market is evolving so quickly right now that concrete plans have not yet been developed by the municipality to capitalize on this.

Barnett added that it will probably take a few years before this total amount of annual revenue is generated by the facility.

He said, however, that the time period to get the facility into full swing will be shortened because the compost facility was previously operating in Squamish.

“One of the things that Councillor Eckhard Zeidler mentioned, and I think it is a key point, is that even though the compost facility in the Sea to Sky corridor closed last September, the collection of the compost was not discontinued,” said Barnett.

“We didn’t shut down a collection system and then have to restart it again. So it is going to be quite a quick start-up process,” he said.

Carney’s Waste System opened up a compost facility in 2004 in the Squamish Business Park. The facility was forced to close in 2006 after being plagued with problems, including a pungent smell.

A contract for the new Whistler compost facility has not been awarded yet. However, Evergreen Projects Limited, owned and operated by Carney’s, recently received the new transfer station contract. Evergreen has been managing municipal waste in Whistler for almost three decades.