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Mining disaster has lesson for Chilliwack, says coalition

STC Grand Chief Kat Pennier said the risk is too great for a potential spill to build a waste facility near the Fraser River, as proposed by Aevitas Inc. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
STC Grand Chief Kat Pennier said the risk is too great for a potential spill to build a waste facility near the Fraser River, as proposed by Aevitas Inc.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

A coalition of First Nations, sport fishing groups and environmentalists is warning that a Mt. Polley type disaster could happen in Chilliwack if a proposed waste recycling plant is eventually built.

Reps from the Hazardous Waste Coalition are drawing a parallel between the risk of building a waste facility on Cannor Road — as proposed by Aevitas Inc. for recycling hazardous waste — and the mining disaster now impacting watersheds in northern B.C. around Likely and Quesnel.

"The risk is just too high," said Sto:lo Tribal Council Grand Chief Kat Pennier. "Our thinking must always take in to account the consequences of a disastrous spill or meltdown to the ecosystem, our home."

Part of the concern is the belief that regulatory agencies are understaffed and that regulations are weak, according to the press release.

The coalition is urging "Mayor and Council of Chilliwack to avoid any and all opportunities that place the Fraser River and its tributaries and communities at risk," adding however that it "supports the building of a hazardous waste facility in a responsible manner that does not directly endanger the ecosystem."

Despite assurances by Aevitas reps of construction plans and multi-barrier engineering that would prevent a spill into the river, the coalition is not convinced.

City of Chilliwack reps would not comment on the coalition's latest news release. They are directing anyone with further questions to www.chilliwack.com/aevitas.

A lawsuit heading to the Supreme Court this fall is focused on what it believes were the failings of the city's public hearing process for the rezoning, filed this spring by Chilliwack resident Glen Thompson and the B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council.

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