A second public hearing was held this week on the placement of a regional composting facility in Campbell River.
The city is considering amending the zoning of the property next to the current landfill at the top of Argonaut Road to allow for the facility should the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) grant Comox Strathcona Waste Management (CSWM) a non-farm use application to use the land for that purpose.
At the first public hearing, held July 8, council heard from numerous concerned members of the public about the location. They raised concerns such as the removal of trees on the property displacing wildlife, compromised groundwater quality, odour and increased truck traffic in the area.
They also cited numerous cases of facilities like the one being proposed being shut down all over the country due to various issues and questioned why the city would be considering such a facility directly above the city’s drinking water supply and salmon bearing waterways.
Representatives of Comox Strathcona Waste Management weren’t on hand at that meeting to address these concerns, so they were given the opportunity to do so on Monday.
Andrew McGifford, senior manager of Comox Strathcona Waste Management Services (CSWM) told council on Monday that the facility won’t be like the ones being shuttered due to odour and other complications across the country, and there is no danger of any contaminants making their way into the water table, as the composting will take place in a fully-enclosed facility, the ground under the waste will be paved and all leachate created will actually be reused within the facility itself during the composting process.
“Are you saying that the facilities that have been causing problems with odours, etc., have been outdoor facilities?” asked Coun. Claire Moglove. “Is this a different type of processing?”
“These facilities have a couple of problems,” McGifford says. “One is the size that they operate in. Sometimes they’re pushing too much material through if they’re indoors, and that’s a concern, or their bio-filters are not strong enough to deal with the waste that they’re processing at these facilities. They haven’t been designed properly.”
That’s part of the reason they are looking at the property beside the landfill as the site of the facility, McGifford says. The Norm Wood Environmental Centre (NWEC), which provides wastewater treatment for the city, was actually the location targeted for the facility at one point.
In fact, the grant that has been awarded for the project is currently tied to the use of the NWEC site and the Agricultural Land Commission has already granted a non-farm use application for the location for it to facilitate the compost facility. But McGifford says the site isn’t large enough to accommodate the region’s need, despite a 2016 CSWM staff report that recommended locating the facility at NWEC because “the site is appropriately zoned, and the size of the proposed site is sufficient to accommodate all of the infrastructure required for a regional facility.”
The neighbours at Monday’s meeting weren’t convinced their concerns were being taken seriously, as many took to the microphone yet again to speak in opposition to the plan.
While CSWM claims that their facility will be regulated by the Ministry of Environment, which has stringent restrictions and monitoring requirements, neighbour Amie Baskin asked how the public can trust that they will actually follow those requirements when they don’t currently do so at the landfill.
“The site has actually been out of compliance (with their operational certificate) since February of 2017,” Baskin says, “and they intend to be until at least 2022.”
Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for CSWM, admits that is the case, but says it’s because the regulations surrounding landfill gas changed in 2014 and the facility couldn’t meet the deadline set by the government to come into compliance with the new rules, but that they are still working towards doing so.
The current landfill is also leaking leachate into the groundwater, Baskin and other neighbours say, so how can they say that won’t continue under the proposed composting facility?
Rutten says the landfill was built back when attenuating landfills – where the water seeps through the waste and into the ground – were acceptable, and the closing of the facility will largely stop that leaching from occurring, “and in regards to the compost site, we are committed to no leachate leaving that site.”
Council will now review all the information provided at both public hearings and decide how to move forward with the possible re-zoning of the property to allow the facility to locate there should the CSWM receive approval from the ALC.