Local News Thursday June 17th 2010
A Resounding "No"
A Burning Issue
Hundreds attend Metro's WTE meeting
Craig Hill/Voice photos
Hundreds fill the ballroom at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn Wednesday for a meeting with Metro Vancouver regarding the Waste-To-Energy incinerator plan.
f Metro Vancouver has it's way, then the first thing burned in their Waste-to-Energy (WTE) incinerator plant will be the feedback forms from thousands of concerned Lower Mainland citizens opposed to their trash incineration plan.
On Wednesday, the main ballroom at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn which holds 450-500 people was filled to capacity for Metro Vancouver's travelling incineration road show. Metro has been crisscrossing the Lower Mainland with a series of public information meetings in an attempt to garner support for their strategic plan. Metro has held 23-meetings to date and there are 9 more to go and July 14 is the final day public input will be accepted into the plan.
The problem with air pollution in the Valley is that much of the airborne particulate matter generated in Terminal City is blown away from the coast where it hits a wall of mountains becoming trapped in the air shed above Chilliwack and Hope.
Zero Waste BC spokesman, John Vissers, told supporters in a rally outside prior to the meeting, that this plan would see more greenhouse gas emissions injected into the Lower Mainland air shed then the highly contested SE2 power generation plan in Lynden Washington which was crushed while still on the drawing boards.
Glen Thompson (L), Chris Gadsden and Mayor Sharon Gaetz at rally outside the WTE meeting Wednesday.
"We fought SE2 and we are going to fight this on many many grounds," said Visser.
"This shows why the air shed is so challenged and how unique it is, there's no other air shed like it in the world." Visser said while holding up a large printout of a satellite image showing how the Coast Mountains close in on the Fraser Valley at Hope.
Vissers also stated that Metro Vancouver has made major strides in reducing CO2 gasses.
"They've committed to an 80% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 which basically means eliminating all CO2 in the next forty-years," said Vissers
Ben West, spokesman for the Wilderness Committee, said it was hard to get people thinking about trash and felt inspired by the work that the various people and organizations have done regarding the air shed problem.
"It's not generally an issue that people get worked up about," said West. "British Columbia said it was going to be a jurisdiction that didn't export it's waste and a waste incinerator produces more CO2 than a coal-fired power plant."
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, also spoke to the crowd saying it was a bad idea for all concerned and that originally even Metro was against the SE2 proposal. According to the stats, the incinerator proposal for Vancouver will generate more air pollution that the SE2 ever would have.
"Metro said it (SE2) wasn't good for the air shed at that time," said Gaetz. "Very clearly we know that there is a health risk when they put incineration forward as a proposal and today we should be talking about closing down the Burnaby incinerator, not adding more incinerators."
Gaetz continued by addressing concerns about the carbon footprint that trucking the garbage would have in the Valley.
"All of those trucks come down with wood shavings and mushroom manure and they would go up empty, but they go up with garbage instead and they are only in our air shed for a very limited amount of time," she said.
Gaetz implored people to write to Minister of Environment Barry Penner. "Please flood his office with your e-mails and letters of concern " and recited his e-mail off by heart.
Chair of Fraser Valley Regional District and Abbotsford City Councillor, Patricia Ross, also took the opportunity to speak telling supporters at the rally that she was disappointed about having to go through yet another round against a pollution-causing source. She punched holes into the use of burners in Europe and said companies often lie about flawed testing, offering people false hopes and unfulfilled promises.
"The notion that incinerating garbage is highly successful all over Europe is the most ridiculous notion," said Ross. "It is more the result of very aggressive industry lobbying from those that want to build incinerators and make money off of them, but in reality there are calls for bans and shutdowns, legal challenges and union challenges."
Ross said that when garbage is burned it combines to form more nasty toxins and that Canada's trash produces 20-30 times more dioxins than in Europe because of the nature of this country's waste and the government allows way more toxins in our waste then in Europe.
"Garbage is one of the most toxic and complex unpredictable fuels on the planet and they actually only capture about two-per-cent of actual dioxins," she added.
Youth are also becoming more aware of the dangers of greenhouse gases through the efforts of Abbotsford's Alexandria Mitchell, who West described as a phenomenal force in the environmental movement here in BC.
The seventeen-year-old, Mitchell was an official delegate at the Copenhagen Climate Summit and brought back with her invaluable information to share with locals. Mitchell talked about a tour of a waste incinerator facility there.
"It was an interesting experience being there in Copenhagen and touring the WTE facility and there are a lot more unanswered questions than were answered," she said. "We don't even know all the health implications and it seems irresponsible to build something like that."
Vissers closed the rally outside by talking about waste reduction and recycling.
"In a world of diminishing resources, and increasing demand, there's no room for waste," he said. "Everything has value and we have to learn again how to regain respect for the value of things; organic, everything that comes from the earth, everything that we manufacture, we have to learn how to do it in such a way that we're not wasting it."
Just prior to the meeting inside, the Voice asked Mayor Gaetz if she thought that Metro was "greenwashing" the plan and she responded saying that she couldn't speculate about Metro's intentions.
"We keep telling them over and over again that they cannot burn garbage and concentrate on the energy part of it, right now we haven't demonstrated a need for that energy and it's an excuse to burn garbage in my view."
Once the meeting was underway inside, Metro made a slick presentation and their fluent panel of experts, which included Port Coquitlam mayor, Greg Moore, and Delta mayor, Lois Jackson, spoke about the plan's upside.
Metro Vancouver brought a contingent of big guns to speak about the WTE plan; Chair of the Waste Management Committee; Greg Moore; Policy and Planning, John Carline; Corporate Communications Manager, David Hawking, Utilities and Planning Manager, Fred Nenninger; Senior Engineer, Dennis Ranaham; Air Quality Planning Division Manager, Roger Quan; Integration Division Manager, Ken Haruska and Integration Division Manger Ivanna King.
Metro's panel worked the crowd with glossy billboards stationed around the ballroom but their views were in contrast to most other politicians there and the residents in attendance weren't buying it.
L. Jackson spoke about the future of the Fraser Valley and about current governments that will have to set the stage so that children in the future can prosper.
"Livable, sustainable, environmentally sound planning principles must be guaranteed," said Jackson.
The word "stink" and "stinking" was used throughout Metro's presentation and Jackson said that there is 500,000 tonnes of garbage in the eastern sector, 250,000 tons from the Central Vancouver sector and 750,000 tonnes being dumped onto Delta's "Garbage Mountain" annually.
"We do have at this time about 1.3 to 1.5-million tonnes of stinking garbage every year," said Jackson. "We have come a long way to adoption of the last solid waste management plan in 1995 and at that time we set a fifty-per-cent diversion goal."
Jackson's chronological timelines:
1995-99 - Curbside recycling, yard waste collection and the two-can limit were introduced.
1998 - Fifty-per-cent diversion of was achieved two-years ahead of schedule.
1998-99 - Vancouver approved expansion of the Cache Creek landfill.
1999 - Municipalities introduced multi-family recycling programs.
2000 - Metro Vancouver purchased the Ashcroft Ranch to replace Cache Creek landfill.
2001 - Metro Vancouver launched the "Sustainable Region Initiative" which dealt with sustainability principles and integrated management plan for solid waste, liquid waste, bio-solids, greenhouse gasses, air quality, drinking water, land use, biodiversity, parks and Housing.
2002 - Metro Vancouver began stakeholder consultations for the Ashcroft Ranch project.
2003 - Metro Vancouver began an environmental assessment process at Ashcroft Ranch.
2004 - Metro submitted a formal application to the BC Environmental Assessment Office to certify the Ashcroft Ranch project.
2005 - The Provincial Government suspended that review of the certification for Ashcroft Ranch and told Metro to investigate the full range of alternative disposal options.
2006 - The "Zero Waste Challenge" was adopted including consideration of waste-to-energy.
2006 - In July, Metro Vancouver launched "Expressions of Interest" for alternative disposal options.
2006 - In November, the Bio Waste plan was adopted and a Zero Waste Challenge public workshop began which focused on minimizing waste, maximizing recycling and energy recovery.
2007 - Plans to replace the Cache Creek landfill were abandoned.
2008 - The strategy for updating the solid waste management plan was again unveiled.
2008 - Metro Vancouver voted to cost to approval to ship waste to the US on an interim disposal basis.
2008 - The minister directed Metro to meet with the public and send in the application.
2008 - In April, the public meetings began for the solid waste management plan strategy again.
"Finding a solution for the future generations is a tremendous task and a great responsibility," said Jackson. "It has been fraught with frustration, a lot of emotion, some misunderstandings and a very difficult time for many."
Moore took a turn at the mike saying that the plan is still in draft and that public input is still very important. He also said that plans are in place to meet a 75% diversion of trash by 2015.
"When we go out to some of these meetings we hear, 'Where's the other side, where's all the information?' and every piece of information that we've done on research is on (Metro's) website," said Moore.
Quite a few politicians were at the meeting including Chilliwack Councillors, Sue Attrill, Stewart McLean and Ken Huttema. Cultus Lake Park Board members, Harrison Hot Springs Councillor Allan Jackson, Kent District Councillor, Ken Schwaerzle, Darcy Striker, Holger Schwichtenber and John Van Laerhoven, Cache Creek Mayor, John Ranta and Coquitlam Councillors Lou Sekora and Brent Asmundson.
Chilliwack MLA John Les gained valuable brownie points, telling Metro that he is against the plan. "If it has a smokestack, we don't want it, if there are emissions coming from it, dioxins or whatever exotic material will emit from it, we don't want it," he said.
Les said that the WTE will create an entire new regional utility that will cost taxpayers dearly.
"I would say to the taxpayers of the Greater Vancouver Regional District 'Be very afraid' this could really hit you in the pocketbook," said Les.
One of the first to speak to the panel after Les was Friends of Chilliwack River Valley Director, Glen Thompson.
"I don't think that you're doing Chilliwack a favour by sending your dirty air here, I think your plan stinks," said Thompson. "Once the WTE plan is built it becomes like a monster that needs to be fed and if for some reason recycling takes off and it doesn't have enough waste, more waste will come from somewhere else, it's a topical solution, it's not a closed system."
Vissers told the Voice that he is optimistic that the WTE plan will never see the light of day under current government legislation and added that burning garbage is not waste reduction.
"In a world of diminishing resources and increasing demand, waste is wasteful," he said. "It doesn't make any sense, once you burn something it's gone forever and where is the sense of a 1970s solution for a 21st century problem and we can't keep doing it this way, it's obscene."
According to Vissers, the provincial energy policy requires that all new energy sources in BC come from clean, green renewable sources.
"This is not clean, green or renewable, this is on par with burning coal," he said.
Eco-Centres are popping up around the mainland to help in this area but it's not enough.
Minister of Environment Barry Penner who was opposed to the SE2 plant will end up with this on his desk for final approval sometime in late November or early December.
To find out how much CO2 your household produces you can follow this link and use the calculator there: www.treecanada.ca/calculator/index.htm
© Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice
Alexandria Mitchell, 17, speaks to crowd at WTE rally Wednesday.
John Vissers speaks at rally on Wednesday.
Abbotsford Councillor and FVRD Chair, Partricia Ross speaks at the rally Wednesday.
The end of the gallery. Thanks for looking.