The view on top of the existing landfill at Discovery Park north of Campbell River is not what you would typically think of when picturing a landfill.
“This is it. That’s the material right there, that’s dredge material that we brought in,” said Troy Whittle, the supervisor of the Discovery Park site, pointing at a mound of what looks like dirt a few metres away.
A proposed expansion of landfill, which involves three different ongoing approval applications to various bodies, has raised the concern of neighbours. Discovery Park held an open house on the topic last week to give the public a chance to ask questions about the project. Approximately 100 people submitted questions, some of which were answered during the meeting, but the majority are going to be addressed in a newsletter expected next week.
The landfill at the Discovery Park site (the former Elk Falls pulp mill) has been in operation since 1991, as part of the first phase. The second phase was added in 1995. As the third phase is brought online Discovery Park is planning to decommission the first and second phases of the landfill. Effectively, Discovery Park wants to move the landfill’s footprint from its current spot to a parcel of equal size just to the northwest. Whittle explained that they will be using the excavated material from the new landfill phase to cover and decommission the old phase, and they plan on re-vegetating the site once the new phase is complete.
“The plan for the operation of the landfill is as phase three is developed and brought online is a progressive closure for the phase one and two. The actual operating size of the landfill will never be bigger than it is right now,” he said.
Of the nearly 100 questions submitted during the open house, multiple questions were on the issue of leachate from the landfill and the effect it could have on groundwater. When the Discovery Park site was operating as a pulp mill, a large water treatment plant was used on site, which treated roughly 300,000 cubic metres of waste water per day. Whittle explained that even with the functioning landfill on the site, those numbers were down to around 10-25,000 cubic metres per week, which is just over one per cent of the previous load on the system.
The landfill will not be open to the public and will operate on a per-project basis with companies needing to apply to be able to use the site. The dumping fees will bring in revenue, which will go towards repurposing and revitalizing the entire Discovery Park site.
“To try and repurpose these sites, these legacy industrial sites, for something this size it’s very hard to find a singular group that could capitalize and absorb the cost and liabilities,” Whittle explained. “We’ve been trying to establish this site here as an industrial park setting with import and export capabilities. We’re looking to get tenants on the site here who are synergistic in their operations, who complement each other. The cost associated with just owning a facility like this and maintaining it in compliance with all regulatory groups is pretty huge. It’s not cheap. We don’t just get it from having a few businesses on the property.”
Current tenants include MOWI, which has an office and builds nets on site, as well as the Amix group, and it is the current home of the B.C. Centre for Aquatic Health Sciences, which had to move after a fire earlier this year. The site was also used for some scenes from the 2019 Apple TV series ‘See,’ starring Jason Momoa.
Whittle also said that a lot of the ideas the company is exploring for the project are for sustainable and environmentally-friendly energy production or other green projects. In one of the marine berths, for example, is a prototype of a tidal turbine, which would produce electricity using the forces of the tide. Whittle also described repurposing some silos on site to hold algae, which would help produce green energy. However, these ideas are a ways off and will come after the site has been fully remediated and sustainable on its own.
“What would my kids think about what I do?” he asked. “I would want them to be proud of what we’re doing here.”
Discovery Park will send out the newsletter early next week, and will continue with the regulatory process early in 2021. Whittle hopes that the first readings of the rezoning bylaw will happen in January, but that depends on the city of Campbell River staff’s workload in the new year.