The Campbell River Waste Management Centre will eventually close in a few years. Photo, Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Comox-Strathcona waste plan update could be costly

Update itself estimated at $800,000 but other expenses push price higher

The agency that manages the region’s solid waste is looking at new ways to deal with garbage, and this process will come with a price.

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While Comox Strathcona Waste Management, which includes board representatives from both the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, wants to divert more waste and reduce pressure on landfill space, it is also considering solid waste advanced technology, or waste-to-energy technology.

The board has been considering this option seriously for the last couple of years and had directed staff to report back with the ramifications. Earlier in the year, the CSWM board approved two directors and one senior staff person to tour a Sustane Technologies facility while in Nova Scotia.

RELATED STORY: Comox Strathcona Waste Management board approves tour of Nova Scotia advanced recycling plant

The subject was the topic of debate at the CSWM board meeting in November, with the majority voting to defer the matter until the new year. It should be on the agenda for the upcoming meeting in Comox on Jan. 10.

Even with the vote to defer any kind of decision, board members did weigh in at the last meeting on what could be an expensive and time-consuming proposition.

At the start of the discussion, Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for CSWM, outlined for board members the current plan from 2012.

“It took several years and involved a lot of consultants,” he explained.

He discussed further what would be needed to enable alternate technology to land-filling. He described this as an intensive, multi-year process with a first step of establishing project teams. They would have to set up principles, goals and targets and assess the current waste management system. The team would have to work with a consultant to develop potential strategies and evaluate against those against social, financial and environmental requirements, and finally, develop a plan to submit to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

“All of this is done with extensive public and First Nations consultation, and consultation with other stakeholders like the haulers in the private sector,” he said, adding the process needs to be transparent and open. “It takes a lot of time, and that’s why these plans are recommended to be in place for 10 years.”

According to a staff presentation, the total cost could be more than $1.5 million and would require an additional staff member to lead the process. The costs break down into $800,000 to update the current solid waste plan, including consultants; $400,000 for staff resources for two to three years; $130,000 for consultants for the actual procurement process; $200,000 for environmental consultants; and $50,000 for legal counsel.

Rutten said the procurement process, itself, could take one of several models, such as traditional design-build or or design-build-operation.

“The main point in the procurement process is to achieve best value for money,” he said.

RELATED STORY: Plenty more waste in Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills could be diverted – audit

Jim Abram, the director for Quadra Island and the Discovery Islands, asked whether the region could go ahead with looking at alternate disposal methods prior to re-doing its solid waste plan, adding the 2012 plan has a provision to allow for this.

“We should be able to do something,” he said.

Rutten responded that the Ministry of Environment requires any disposal method other than land-filling needs a solid waste management plan update.

Michele Babchuk, one of the Campbell River directors, said that when she was first on the CSWM board, there was a motion not to re-do the whole management plan because it would be too large an undertaking, adding there was an opening to investigate waste-to-energy options.

“This board went through an extensive process to take a look at that,” she said.

She said that from attending meeting at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, her impression is the ministry is aware of the provision to consider the new technology in the solid waste plan.

“I’m a little bit concerned at the direction we’re being led here,” she said. “We are going to miss out on some really great opportunities if this board doesn’t start acting on the direction we were going.”

Russell Dyson, the chief administrative officer for both the Comox Valley Regional District and CSWM, reiterated Rutten’s point about their need to update the plan before pursuing solid waste advanced technology.

“If you’re serious about this, you’re going to have to do that solid waste management plan,” he said.

Andy Adams, Campbell River’s mayor and one of its CSWM directors, asked for a motion to defer a vote on next steps for CSWM to take in regards to the plan update.

His Campbell River colleague, Charlie Cornfield, responded that the plan only needs an amendment rather than a rewrite, as the technology question pertains to only one section of the plan. He voted in opposition to the motion to defer the discussion.

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