City council is mulling over a proposal to have the Campbell River Waste Management Centre on Argonaut Road begin accepting and storing asbestos after it was granted approval to do so by the province recently.

Council delays decision on asbestos at Campbell River landfill

City council wants more information from its city staff on asbestos proposal

More questions surrounding the disposal of asbestos at the Campbell River landfill have been raised by city council, a move which is casting uncertainty around a plan that has already approved by the province.

Council, at its May 23 meeting, received input from its city staff that it took no issue with the local dump accepting asbestos, so long as the ground water is monitored for any water quality changes.

That report from staff was intended to help council direct its city staff to provide either positive or negative feedback to the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service which wants to move forward with making Campbell River’s landfill an asbestos handling site.

Instead, it only seemed to raise more questions, particularly for Coun. Charlie Cornfield who was the councillor that, earlier this month, requested the staff report.

“I was expecting a little bit more to the specific request to them,” said Cornfield who said he has concerns surrounding drinking water quality as well as zoning specific to the landfill site on Argonaut Road.

“There’s only one well between McIvor Lake and our dump site,” Cornfield said. “And I think we should be requesting that they consider the hydrology between the landfill and our current water supply.”

Leona Adams, a Campbell River resident and member of the Campbell River Environmental Committee, wrote in a letter to council that she too has concerns around ground water.

“There has been no hydrogeological review with the approval (from the province),” Adams wrote. “There is only one west functioning well and it may not be located to observe the water underneath the landfill which rises and falls with the level of McIvor Lake.”

But the issue that really concerned Cornfield was around zoning. Cornfield wondered whether adding asbestos as an accepted material at the landfill would be significant enough to change the description of the operation and in turn prompt a re-zoning in order to keep the landfill in compliance.

“When it’s changed to allow hazardous material, does that affect the current zoning we have? In other words, would it be a signficant change to the operation that it would affect the zoning?” Cornfield wanted to know.

Marianne Wade, the city’s development services manager, said she didn’t believe that to be the case.

“The current zoning permits for those kind of uses in that existing zone,” Wade said. “The zoning itself talks about the landfill and not the actual materials.”

But Ron Neufeld, deputy city manager and general maanger of operations, said city staff would need to double check that in order to ensure council has the correct information.

“This is an interesting question,” Neufeld admitted. “It is a question staff can take away and do a bit more research to ensure we’re giving you accurate and complete information.”

Hearing that, council decided to defer taking action – including responding back to the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service – pending more information from staff which is likely to come forward at the next council meeting on Tuesday, June 6.

As for Adams, she said she understands the challenges faced by those who have nowhere other than Victoria to dispose of asbestos-containing materials and hopes an alternative can be found.

“I realize due to transportation challenges and illegal dumping, an asbestos deposit site is needed,” Adams said. “The old Catalyst/Discovery LNG waste site already has asbestos deposited in it. Why not explore keeping it all in one place? In the interest of keeping the volume, 240 tonnes per year (which was approved by the province) of asbestos out of our drinking water watershed, why not have the city or the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Board staff talk to the new owners to see if they are willing to accept an increased volume at their waste site?

“I hope the city will say no to the deposit of asbestos at the CRWMC (Campbell River Waste Management Centre) and request the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Board look at other options.”

The Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board, which is made up of both Comox Valley and Strathcona Regional District directors (including five Campbell River city councillors), was notified in April that the province has granted the waste management service the authority to implement asbestos disposal at the Campbell River landfill.

Campbell River’s landfill was chosen over the Comox Valley’s because contractors working at the Campbell River facility are already trained in handling and disposing of asbestos.

Asbestos has long been a controversial topic because of the possible health effects that exposure to disturbed asbestos can pose. According to WebMD, breathing in the fibres over long periods of time can increase the risk for diseases like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. On the other hand, asbestos left undisturbed is typically considered safe when left alone or handled properly.