Abram worries that individual decisions could hurt regional board

Jim Abram is concerned the city could go ahead with waste-to-energy at the former mill site without having to run it by a regional board.

Jim Abram is concerned the City of Campbell River could go ahead with a waste-to-energy facility at the former Elk Falls mill site without having to run it by a regional board.

“I lived at the Cape Mudge Lighthouse for 18 years and I tested what came out of the Elk Falls pulp mill for the owner,” Abram said. “What came out of that stack was horrendous, so yes I’m concerned and it affects my constituents (Quadra-Discovery Islands).”

At a Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management Board Meeting (which includes councillors from both the Comox Valley and Campbell River, as well as regional directors) a motion was deferred by the board which upset Abram.

The motion called for the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management Plan, which is in the process of being updated, to be amended to incorporate language where any new waste management facility must first go through an authorization process by the waste management board of directors. However, that motion was changed by outgoing Mayor Charlie Cornfield, to refer the matter to Regional District staff for further consideration at the 2012 strategic planning session.

Abram, who represents Area C (Quadra and Discovery Islands), said he wants to see all waste management projects brought back to the broader table before going ahead.

“It’s a regional plan, so it should have a regional voice no matter what it is,” Abram said.

“It’s the concept of regional planning versus individual planning. If you sit at a regional table, you should make a regional decision.”

Abram said the consultant, AECOM, which wrote the draft solid waste management plan, said the original motion is something that other regional district’s have included in their plans.

“Yet our board was not willing to put that wording into the solid waste management plan,” Abram said. “Instead a discussion ensued that said ‘we don’t have enough information, maybe we should refer it back to staff.’ The whole time the consultant from AECOM was shaking his head, visibly.

“He was obviously concerned we were not including this in our policy and it made me feel certain that it should be in the plan.”

Abram is also concerned there are no further strategic planning sessions scheduled.

“We don’t know when that Strategic Planning Session is going to be and what happens between now and then,” Abram said. “Any proposal could come in and there’s no policy to guide us back to the board table to discuss it. It made no sense to refer the matter to an undetermined meeting sometime in 2012. I had no appetite for it. It was not just a deferrable motion, it was a motion to stop from happening what made total sense in that moment.”

Abram said he is concerned about a “window of limbo” because of what he’s heard about the Elk Falls mill site.

In a newsletter Nov. 7 to his constituents on Quadra Island, Abram wrote that “Campbell River has high hopes for a facility at the Elk Falls mill site for a ‘mass burn’ site…that means no sorting, just dumping raw garbage into an incinerator and lighting it up.”

Abram said when he wrote the piece there were “rumours out there at that time that there were discussions between a company and Catalyst (which owns the mill) to develop a waste-to-energy facility at the Elk Falls mill site.”

He said that’s not new information.

“That issue was on the table for some time, it wasn’t something that was breaking news that I put out to my constituents in Area C, it was just another red flag that something might be going on at the Elk Falls site,” Abram said.

But outgoing councillor Roy Grant denies anything was going on.

“Our city council has not discussed a mass burn site at the Elk Falls mill site, either in public city council meetings or in-camera (behind closed doors),” Grant said. “There are no secrets.”

Outgoing councillor Ziggy Stewart said Abram’s newsletter was made up of “false statements” while Grant said the newsletter was “slanderous mis-information” and “intentional fear-mongering.”

Abram disagrees.

“The information I put in my newsletter of course is not false, for anybody to suggest such a thing is just nonsense,” Abram said. “The information I put in the newsletter is the information I had at the time.”

Both Grant and Stewart said the newsletter affected the mayoral campaign, leading residents to believe Grant and Stewart supported a mass burn site.

Abram said his newsletter had nothing to do with the election.

“That it had anything to do with the election is ludicrous,” Abram said.

“First of all, I never even considered the election. When I write my report during election time, I’m not campaigning. I keep my report as clean as could be.

“These allegations from Mr. Grant and Mr. Stewart are completely unfounded. They did their best to try and publicly embarrass me,” Abram said.

“I already at the (Nov. 24 Regional District) meeting apologized to each and every one of them for any inconvenience my report may have caused them.”