Squamish landfill ruled out until upgraded 

Whistler commits to export its waste south of the border as it works with Squamish on corridor landfill

Though it may be cheaper, Whistler won’t be sending its garbage to Squamish until that landfill is up to environmental standards.

Council reinforced this decision at Monday’s meeting as they re-committed to sending Whistler’s solid waste to the Rabanco landfill in Washington state. The waste will be moving south once Whistler’s landfill closes in October.

Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works, gave council the option to pursue keeping its garbage in the corridor. He said recent talks with the province revealed authorities would consider allowing Squamish to accept Whistler’s waste despite the landfill being below provincial environmental standards.

Though sending it closer to home would likely lower costs, it would have greater environmental ramifications.

"We expect the Squamish option would be less expensive than Rabanco, so that’s an advantage," said Barnett this week. "The disadvantage to Whistler is that it doesn’t have as high environmental standards as the Rabanco landfill."

Barnett explained that the greenhouse gas emissions are higher under the Squamish option despite it being closer to home.

A detailed analysis of greenhouse gas emissions revealed disposing Whistler’s waste in a landfill with a gas management system like Rabanco’s is almost four times better than disposing the waste in a landfill without that system, even with the increased transportation emissions. Neither Whistler nor Squamish has a gas management system.

The leachate containment is also far better at the Rabanco site.

Councillor Ken Melamed kicked off the discussion at Monday’s council meeting by saying Whistler should not be taking environmental steps backwards. He called on council to enter into a three-year contract with Rabanco, continue working with the District of Squamish to bring their landfill up to environmental standards and also to get more aggressive in Whistler’s waste reduction standards.

Council supported these requests.

Expanding and upgrading the Squamish landfill would likely only be feasible if Whistler commits to sending its waste there. As such, the municipality is working with Squamish on a business case.

"The municipality has expressed interest in working with Squamish on the business case to confirm that (the landfill) does work on a corridor wide basis, recognizing that we’d be a significant partner in that decision," added Barnett.

In the meantime, he said the municipality has started a site assessment of potential locations for a transfer station in town, which would hold the garbage until it is shipped out of Whistler. One site north of town is being assessed as well as seven sites in the southern end.

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