Monday June 28, 2010
Hanging in the balance
Cache Creek battles for survival with Metro Vancouver over Waste-to-energy incinerator plan
etro Vancouver's waste-to-energy (WtE) plan is poised to gut Cache Creek's economy, threatening to turn a once-thriving town into a ghost town.
The town's mayor, John Ranta, is lobbying hard against burners 337km (209 miles) from his town. But unlike most residents in the Fraser Valley against the incinerator proposal for air quality reasons, Ranta is trying to save his own town from falling off the map and keep the economic heart of the city intact as a viable option for the next quarter century.
For him it' about jobs – 120 jobs. Without the landfill those jobs would vanish like smoke and strike a major blow to the town's economy. Cache Creek would be on a defibrillator.
The city of Cache Creek isn't exactly a boom town, but holds it's own economically because of the landfill which was slated to close in 2012 but recently a reprieve after an environmental assessment which annexed more land and extended it's lifespan for another 2025 years.
Ranta has a tough row to hoe because he says Metro has the blinders on and seem to be "singularly focused" on burning garbage as the only option they have.
"They think that if they are going to go ahead with Waste-to-energy, that it's a formality to get public buy-in and I don't think it is," said Ranta. "Imagine if they were trying to incite an incinerator in North Vancouver, how the people there would react?"
Ranta has allies in his fight. John Vissers at Zero Waste BC is in his corner and the FVRD has now
thrown their hat into the ring against the incinerators.
Fraser Valley residents opposed to Metro's plan say airborne particulate from the incinerators will end up being trapped by the mountains at the eastern edge of the Fraser Valley over Chilliwack and Hope turning the already hazy mountains into a different shade of purple.
While talking on the Bill Good Show late last week, Ranta said Metro seems to be looking at incineration as their only option.
"The last couple of years it appears that Metro Vancouver Staff and politicians are singularly focused on establishing a Waste-to energy facility," said Ranta. "And all the work that's been done surrounding waste reduction and recycling and the impact of Waste -to energy on the Fraser Valley air shed leads me to believe that they're going the wrong direction."
Ranta's fight to save Cache Creek's sustainability is against big companies with bottomless pockets backing Metro's Waste-to-energy (WtE) plan which would mean construction of a massive burner somewhere in the Valley that would consume 500,000 tonnes of trash a year somewhere in the Lower Mainland.
First Nations also get a cut from the landfill.
"There are revenue-sharing deals struck between Belkorp, Wastech, the Bonaparte Indian Band, Ashcroft Indian Band, the Village of Cache Creek," said Ranta.
In 2000, the provincial government invested a little over $4-million dollars in Ashcroft Ranch with an idea to create a landfill there. But although Cache Creek at the time supported the plan, the Native bands did not because they had a stake in it too. Later, an environmental assessment was nixed and then Metro got on the incineration horse.
Contrary to what some may think, the trucks don't deadhead. They come back with wood chips and asphalt so are they are being used in both directions and not coming back from Cache Creek to the Lower Mainland empty.
Additionally, methane gas is coming off the dump in such great quantities that Ranta and Westport Innovations want to collect it, scrub it clean and compress it into liquid natural gas.
"The advantage of the LNG is we're able to generate it right from the decomposing waste here in Cache Creek and so it makes sense to us and the Westport innovations proposal seems to fit with the gas that's produced at the Cache Creek Landfill," said Ranta.
If trucks can fuel up there with locally produced LNG, it will create a scenario of cheaper and cleaner fuel which can also be sold to long-distance that pass through Cache Creek daily.
"So what we're hoping to do by having a refueling station centrally located at the junction of Hwy 1 and 97, is create an opportunity for other long-distance truckers to convert to Westport Innovations technology and clean up the environment from trucking throughout the province."
But North American heavy-duty diesel trucks are now almost zero emission without Westport technology. The trucks coming out of manufacturers now have their exhaust fluid injected directly in exhaust streams and according to some reports, its so "green" that companies say they have a hard time measuring emissions.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts isn't on the same page as Ranta and she thinks that every city should have to deal with it's own waste.
"You know what, you've got x-amount of tonnes of waste coming out of your city, you need to deal with it. I think we need to start dealing with our waste in a better way. I don't think landfills are a way of the future."
Watts said Europe was forced to be innovative because a lack of available land and is concerned about the "long-term effects" that landfills have on the earth.
"I think now that we have seen technology come forward and I think its time we tried some of this technology," she said.
The problem with incineration is that when different types of wastes are burned, dioxins and other unknown substances are created. It's been reported that in Europe that there are clusters of various cancers around their burners.
Currently, a burner is running in Burnaby which produces electricity from steam but Ranta says the area around the plume has never been tested.
"There was a study done in 1992, based on soils in the Fraser Valley in the plume of the Burnaby Incinerators that suggested that more testing take place and that testing has never happened," he said.
Social media is a vital tool to raise awareness on issues like the burners. Videos like "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Breath" are popping up on You Tube. Facebook and Twitter are buzzing with comments both for and against Metro's proposal.
The movement against the incinerators also has a rallying song by Chilliwack pop gospel artist Shane Weibe called "Landfill in the Sky" sung to the tune of "Spirit in the Sky."
Once Metro has submitted their proposal to the provincial government, the final decision rests with Minster of Environment, Barry Penner in about 10 days time.
For more information on the fight to stop the incinerators visit www.zerowaste.org
For information about Cache Creek, the landfill itself and the technology they want to use then visit these sites:
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