Landfill must be closed if athletes village goes in Cheakamus 

Whistler eyes Squamish and beyond to dump garbage; AWARE says that’s not a sustainable practice

Whistler’s garbage could soon be piling up in someone else’s backyard.

If the Lower Cheakamus area is chosen as the site for the athletes village for the 2010 Olympics – and it has been identified by municipal staff and the IOC as the preferred site – the landfill’s days are numbered and the municipality must decide what to do with Whistler’s garbage.

Most likely the garbage would be trucked to a landfill either in the B.C. Interior, the southeast corner of Washington State, or in Squamish.

That is not a sustainable choice, according to Eckhard Zeidler, a director with the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment.

He explained that trucking garbage violates one of the basic principles of The Natural Step, the sustainability blueprint adopted by Whistler in 2001.

"Our feeling on it at AWARE is that we would like to see our waste, wherever possible, handled in our community," said Zeidler.

"We don’t support using fossil fuels… to transport our waste elsewhere in the region, elsewhere in the province or out of the country. We absolutely do not support that."

But the prospect of opening another landfill in Whistler is slim, according to Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works with the municipality.

He explained that the province wants to deal with garbage on a regional basis, a strategy common throughout North America.

This way garbage can be moved into areas with dry, arid climates, which can meet the stringent new environmental standards associated with landfills.

"The climate is simply not ideal for landfilling here," said Barnett.

"The movement is to get away from all these small landfills where the communities don’t have resources to ensure environmental standards are met."

Eight years ago Whistler council looked into options for moving the garbage out of town.

They got as far as putting the preliminary contracts in place when they decided to keep burying solid waste in town.

And so, council extended the life of the existing landfill until 2008, with the provision that a review to be done in 2004.

That review will be completed next month. It will outline two specific options to deal with Whistler’s garbage.

Whistler could either extend the life of the current landfill until 2030, in which case the athletes village and any subsequent permanent resident housing could not go on the Lower Cheakamus site.

"I’m expecting that if the selection for permanent employee housing is down in the Cheak South area then the landfill would be closed," said Barnett.

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