More than half of people polled about the region’s landfill dilemma want to keep facilities in both Campbell River and the Comox Valley, according to a survey conducted over the past few months.
Seventy-three per cent of respondents indicated they would prefer expanding both dumps over just one.
“The public’s input is critical in helping us make decisions about how we can best manage our waste in the future, including the selection of our future disposal facilities, such as landfills,” said Edwin Grieve, chair of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board, which is made up of directors from the Strathcona and Comox Valley regional districts.
“We are pleased with the response to the open houses as well as the random telephone survey results.”
Perhaps most revealing is people’s opinions on waste-to-energy technologies, which involve incinerating waste to produce electricity or heat.
Gordon Road residents were up in arms last year upon learning the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste Management Board was looking at using the Elk Falls mill site for a mass burn facility.
However, survey results paint a different picture.
Sixty-one per cent of those polled through feedback forms and 81 per cent surveyed via telephone said they would support a waste-to-energy facility.
Results were compiled from 14 open houses held across the region in March and April, which asked for feedback on options to create much-needed landfill space.
A statistically-representative telephone survey was also conducted with 600 area residents. Approximately 700 feedback forms were also completed at the open houses or online.
A total of 81 per cent of respondents support a regional composting facility while 90 per cent indicated they agree that current waste reduction programs could be improved by focusing on increased recycling and recycling education.
The public consultation is part of the process of updating the region’s solid waste management plan, aimed at guiding decisions about future waste and recycling programs for the next 20 years.
Three shortlisted options emerged from the process. The board is considering either expanding both Comox Valley and Campbell River landfills, or expanding one of the two.
One regional landfill in between both communities and waste-to-energy were options making the final seven.
The most expensive option is to expand just the Campbell River landfill at $71 per tonne, while expanding just the Comox Valley dump in Cumberland is the cheapest option at $62 per tonne. Expanding both dumps is slightly more, at $68 per tonne.
The Campbell River dump, on Argonaut Road, serves 45,000 people and processes 30,000 tonnes of waste each year.
The dump is rapidly running out of space and is expected to reach capacity by this fall. A transfer station is temporarily in place to accommodate the waste, which is trucked to the Pigeon Lake landfill in Cumberland.
Todd Baker, an engineer with consulting group AECOM, told city council last month that the Campbell River dump could be expanded to the north east which could allow for more than 20 more years of use.
A new dump would have to be built next to the existing one with a
liner to treat leachate, a potentially toxic liquid.
“We know if one or both of the facilities are to expand, it will require upgrades…to be in compliance with the Ministry of Environment’s criteria,” Baker said.
Improvements would include an engineered system for leachate treatment, landfill gas management and a membrane that would cover the landfill to ensure no air or water escapes from the site.
As for waste-to-energy, a small burn facility in the Comox Valley would cost $143 per tonne while a large scale facility in Campbell River would cost $88 per tonne.
Baker said the region does not produce enough waste to run a large-scale facility and in order to make it cost effective, waste would have to be transferred from the Lower Mainland.
The solid waste plan is expected to be prepared within the next few weeks and will then be reviewed by the Solid Waste Management Plan Advisory Committee in early June.
The final plan will go before the board at a meeting June 21, and, if adopted, will be submitted to the provincial Minister of Environment.