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Opposition continues over waste facility location

Grand Chief Clarence Pennier joined sport fishing and environmental groups by the river recently to show opposition to the location of a proposed waste recycling facility on Cannor Road. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
Grand Chief Clarence Pennier joined sport fishing and environmental groups by the river recently to show opposition to the location of a proposed waste recycling facility on Cannor Road.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

Opposition to a riverside waste recycling plant in Chilliwack continues in 2014, with an inaugural meeting of an ad hoc group set for Jan. 14.

ACT Chilliwack will be a "platform for public engagement" on topics including the potentially toxic waste site, said organizers.

Last month First Nations, environmental and sport fishing reps gathered near the Fraser River to express concerns about to the proposal by Aevitas Inc. to build a waste recycling and transfer station on Cannor Road for hazardous materials like mercury and PCBs.

It was a unanimous decision by council on Dec. 3 to rezone property on the Cattermole Lands from its M4 heavy industrial designation, to M6 special industrial zone to allow the construction of a waste recycling plant.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz stressed that Chilliwack specifically opted for the M6 'special industrial' designation to give council the ability to introduce extra environmental restrictions and conditions they wouldn't otherwise be able to impose.

So far the ACT Chilliwack group has not publicized its meeting location, or invited local media or city officials, but the poster says they encourage "full transparency and thorough consultation."

They are still concerned about the waste plant location, and the potential for toxic substances leaching into the river.

"ACT Chilliwack is a citizens' group in formation seeking people from the local community who want to do more than talk," reads a poster that appeared on a Chilliwack-related Facebook page.

"We are not a society or a club. We are individuals coming together, hoping to do more collaboratively than we can, individually," it continues.

Organizers say they will use a loose, informal and consensus-based approach.

"We're interested in creating a means for the people of this city to speak to issues which concern them in an organized, committed and consistent way."

The inaugural meeting is set for Tuesday, January 14, 6-8 p.m. at the undisclosed location. Those interested are asked to email no2hazardouswaste@mail.com for the address.

"The public needs to be heard before the 4th and final reading of this rezoning application," according to the online info.

But City officials countered the criticism last month by explaining that council did everything by the books in terms of the public process. The public had ample time to comment or attend the hearing, all the hearing rules were followed and council cannot by law receive any new information on the issue.

Councillors also said at the hearing they were convinced the recycling work could be done safely at the riverside site, citing reports that Aevitas has never had a safety incident or complaint in its 20 years of operation at similar sites in Ontario and Alberta.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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