Opponents of the proposed Aevitas hazardous waste recycling plant near the Fraser River in Chilliwack are urging Metro Vancouver to join their push for a safer site.
Outdoor Research Council of B.C. chair Mark Angelo on Thursday urged Metro directors to take a stand because toxins from mercury to PCBs could spill or seep directly into the river due to an accident, flood, fire or earthquake.
“They could not have picked a worse location,” Angelo told Metro’s climate action committee, adding he doesn’t oppose the proposal of Ontario-based Aevitas Inc., only its location less than 200 metres from the Fraser.
The plant would recycle metal, glass and mercury from light bulbs and remove PCBs from transformer oil for re-use but the prospect has stirred up fierce opposition in the Fraser Valley.
Angelo said downstream communities are also at risk, as well as the habitat of salmon and sturgeon, if something goes wrong.
“Why play Russian roulette with the river when you don’t have to?” he asked. “Nowhere else in North America are plants like this being built alongside rivers,” he said.
Chilliwack city council has agreed to the project in principle and rezoned the land, but a final approval decision will be up to the provincial environment ministry.
Ministry officials have said it will only be allowed if it’s deemed safe but have not yet decided if a full environmental assessment will be required.
The Metro committee referred the issue to staff to report back with more information and a recommended position.
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves said he opposes the plant location and added the Metro regional district should not hesitate to wade into the debate on the threat of toxins flowing downriver, in light of the Fraser Valley Regional District’s strong opposition to Metro’s waste-to-energy incineration plans.
The FVRD argues its air quality will be harmed by emissions blowing east from increased garbage incineration and it has also opposed the renewal of the operating permit for Metro’s existing incinerator.
“Fair is fair,” Steves said. “They’re concerned about air quality, well we’re concered about water quality.”
Aboriginal leaders in the Fraser Valley also oppose the Aevitas project and have said they cannot imagine any acceptable location on the river’s floodplain.