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Residents concerned about north Campbell River landfill project

Application needs ALC and city approval
The landfill, to be located next to the square-shaped structure in the photo, needs to be approved by the ALC and the city. Photo courtesy Google Maps

A proposal to expand a landfill at the Discovery Park industrial complex north of Campbell River has caught the eye of neighbours, who are concerned about what adding landfill capacity will mean to their community.

The landfill was initially built to service the Elk Falls Pulp Mill and has been in operation since the mill was constructed. The landfill is separated into four parts. The original landfill ceased operations in the 1990s when the current phases one and two were built. The original landfill was permitted for disposal of mill waste, dredge material and mill construction materials. After the Elk Falls Pulp Mill was closed in 2010, the newer portion of the landfill — named phases one and two — were used for demolition debris, asbestos and other decommissioning waste.

The most recent update came as the owner of the property, a numbered company associated with the Discovery Park and LNG project in the area, applied to expand the landfill site and open it to take in contaminated soil material from Vancouver Island.

According to Leah Irvine, a planner with the city, two applications are active for this project. The first is for a non-farm use application with the ALR, and the second is a rezoning application with the city. Since the old landfill was tied to the mill operation, it was considered to be part of that business. However, since the mill is non-operational, the rezoning and non-farm use is now needed.

“There is no ALC public notification requirements for non-farm use appeals,” Irvine said in an email to the Mirror.

Since the rezoning process was started in tandem with the ALC review, the city reached out to other local governments in the area, posted an ad in the Mirror, and posted signage at the site. One of the local governments reached was the Strathcona Regional District, who spoke about the item during their July board meeting.

“Phase three has been previously approved by the Ministry of Environment and will continue to operate in compliance with all MOE regulations,” said SRD senior manager of community services, planning and development Aniko Nelson during the July meeting.

“This is an existing contaminated landfill facility that was active during the operation of the former Catalyst pulp mill that has been brought back and re-engineered and the application is just to reactivate it for potential use,” added director Andy Adams during the same meeting.

The goal of the facility is to have a commercially-operated contaminated soils landfill for Vancouver Island. Only a handful of sites exist that can take in this kind of soil, which is different from hazardous soil. The applicant is asking to be able to take in boiler ash, effluent treatment plant sludge, asbestos, dredged material, sediments, unusable wood and construction waste, non-recyclable fibreglass and scrap metal as well as minerals and soil.

Timandra Coulter, a resident of the area adjacent to the landfill, reached out to the Mirror about the project. Her concerns include the potential effect the project will have on wells in the area as well as any leaching that could come from the landfill itself.

“It’s got records of leaching in the past. It’s pretty scary. They talk about a lot of the contaminants that have made it down to the tidal flats,” Coulter said. “They also say that there are improvements that could be made to that system, so what does that mean? What are the problems?”

An online petition has been started to spread the word about the landfill.

According to the report included in the application, leachate from the old site and the other two phases of the landfill produced levels of elements including aluminum, arsenic, copper, and molybdenum, though the concentration of these elements has decreased over subsequent years. The report also says that maintenance is required on the leachate pumping system used at the site.

The project, however, has been approved by the Ministry of Environment and is waiting for the Agricultural Land Commission’s decision before moving forward with its rezoning application.

Irvine said that if the ALC supports the proposal and the matter is continued through council, it will then go through a public hearing process, where people can send in their concerns or speak in person about the project. Council will also have the ability to deny the application at first or second reading, which would close the application.

The city’s review of the application has not been scheduled yet, due to the ongoing ALC non-farm use application.

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