Roadwork swapped for methane mitigation 

Blackcomb Way median removal part of deal with Olympic organizers

Paying for the removal of the median along Blackcomb Way and its re-paving was a smart financial move for the municipality.

It is part of a financial agreement between the Resort Municipality of Whistler and the 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) explained chief administrative officer Bill Barratt.

Under the deal the RMOW will pay for paving upgrades needed for the 2010 Games, while VANOC will pay for the methane gas mitigation work needed at the site of the $46.8 million Rona High Performance Centre within the athletes' village.

The deal cost the RMOW about $600,000 in paving, said Barratt.

It is not clear how much the methane work is costing VANOC, but its July board of directors meeting notes that $1.02 million was drawn from the contingency for methane gas mitigation work at the centre along with snow-making and ski run in-run out grading at Cypress and homologation work at the Vancouver Olympic/Paralympics Centre.

"It is a good financial plan," said Barratt, adding that it's reflective of the strong partnership between the municipality and Olympic organizers.

Without the deal VANOC would have given the RMOW a cheque for paving and the RMOW would have given a cheque back to VANOC for methane mitigation, as it is the organization in charge of building the high performance centre, which includes an athletes training centre, a four storey lodge and 20 townhouses.

Other roadways receiving paving work are Glacier Drive, Nordic Drive, Taluswood Lane and Cheakamus Road.

The $150,000 work on Blackcomb Way also included sensor work on the lights at Lorimer Way and new service conduits, such as Hydro and communications, for the Whistler Medals Plaza.

Since the landfill, which produces the methane gas, is a municipal responsibility it would normally fall to the RMOW to pay for the gas mitigation work.

When it was decided to build the high performance centre and its components the cost of the methane mitigation was not accounted for. So VANOC, which designed and built the centre, agreed it would pay for the mitigation, if the RMOW took care of the paving needs for the Games.

The RMOW also contributed $3.65 million to the high performance centre.

Methane forms in landfills when organic waste decomposes in the absence of oxygen.

Bacteria in the landfill break down the trash in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic) because the landfill is airtight. A byproduct of this anaerobic breakdown is landfill gas, which contains approximately 50 per cent methane and 50 per cent carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen. This presents a hazard because the methane can explode and/or burn. So, the landfill gas must be removed. To do this, a series of pipes are embedded within the landfill to collect the gas. In some landfills, this gas is vented or burned.

According to the RMOW, the methane emitted from the landfill is the biggest point source of GHG emissions in the municipality.

As part of the landfill closure project, the landfill was covered by a high-density polyethylene liner to prevent moisture from penetrating and creating contaminated leachate. The liner also traps landfill gases, preventing them from escaping into the surrounding atmosphere. A series of vertical wells and perforated pipes were installed under the liner to allow effective collection of the landfill gas.

It has been estimated that a total of 350,000 tonnes of waste were buried at the Whistler Landfill between the late 1970s and the landfill closure in November 2005. Until the first week of March 2007, this gas was escaping through the surface of the landfill into the atmosphere.

The landfill gas flare, temporarily located on top of the closed landfill, was put into operation on March 7, 2007. Collecting and flaring (burning) the gas converts the methane to carbon dioxide, significantly reducing its GHG potential.



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