Council pursuing organics facility

City council is asking the Comox Valley Regional District to apply for grant funding to build a compost facility in Campbell River.

Council, at its April 11 meeting, voted to provide a formal recommendation to the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Board – which is made up of both Campbell River and Comox Valley councillors and regional district directors – to submit an application to the Building Canada Fund.

The solid waste function is operated under the Comox Valley Regional District which the city has committed to work with to establish a regional organics facility by 2018 at the city’s Norm Wood Environmental Centre.

Amber Zirnhelt, the city’s community planning and development services manager, said the facility will handle organics generated by households, institutions and businesses from the Campbell River area and the Comox Valley. The city is also hoping to treat its biosolids at the organics facility.

Such a move, pending Ministry of Environment approval, could save the city up to $3 million by not having to replace the digester at the Norm Wood Environmental Centre which currently handles the city’s waste.

Zirnhelt said an organics curbside collection program could also potentially save taxpayers money as the city could combine yard waste and food waste into one program.

That would mean the city could close its yard waste drop-off centre.

“A combined organics/yard waste program could result in a net savings for curbside collection of $52,000 or $5.15 per household per year,” Zirnhelt said.

She added that an organics facility could also bring up to three new jobs to Campbell River and it would go a long way in extending the life of the landfill.

“With the Campbell River Waste Management Centre nearing capacity, diverting organics from the landfill will help to expand the usable life of the landfill,” Zirnhelt said. “On an annual basis, curbside organics from Campbell River households alone account for approximately five per cent of the material taken to the (landfill).”

Coun. Charlie Cornfield agreed it’s a good thing for the landfill.

“I think this is a good advancement in keeping materials out of our landfill and hopefully giving us a few extra years,” he said.

Diverting organics from the landfill also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane gas, generated by organic material decomposing in the landfill.

Coun. Michele Babchuk said the project is one she’s really pleased to see advancing.

“This is a really proactive piece from this council that I’m very excited about because we are going to see legislation for organics come down in the next little while,” she said. “It’s nice to be out in front of it and being proactive and not being reactive when that time comes.”

The Comox Valley Regional District has until April 28 to apply to the Build Canada Fund which provides one-third funding from each of the provincial and federal governments (the local government applying makes up the rest). The city has $1 million set aside in its 2016 capital plan for potential development of the regional organics facility that was to be used if grant funding was available.

The city has already issued and evaluated Requests for Proposals for the development of an organics facility and has identified a preferred contractor for the project should the funding be made available.

The city worked with that contractor to work on a grant application to the Strategic Priorities Fund last year but the application was unsuccessful.

Zirnhelt said one of the weaknesses with the application was that the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste board had not yet endorsed locating an organics facility in Campbell River.

Council’s motion on Monday to have the Comox Valley Regional District apply for the grant funding attempts to this time show that the solid waste board supports the proposal.