Scrubbers at Metro Vancouver's waste-to-energy facility remove metals like cadmium before they go up the stack. But the ash collected was found to exceed provincial limits in July and August.

Scrubbers at Metro Vancouver's waste-to-energy facility remove metals like cadmium before they go up the stack. But the ash collected was found to exceed provincial limits in July and August.

Incinerator firm slow to tell Metro of failed ash tests

Ash contained at Cache Creek landfill after cadmium levels exceeded provincial limit this summer

Fly ash from Metro Vancouver’s garbage incinerator that tested high in toxic cadmium in July and August has been contained at the Cache Creek landfill.

But Metro officials say they’re still trying to determine why waste-to-energy plant operator Covanta Energy was slow to inform the regional district of the test failures.

About 2,000 tonnes of the fly ash, which is particulate collected from scrubbers that keep toxic metals from going up the stack, was trucked to the Interior landfill.

Provincial regulation requires the ash pass two different tests to ensure it can be safely dumped at a landfill.

Solid waste manager Paul Henderson said there was a range of sample results, but the highest cadmium readings were more than double the provincial limit.

“It wasn’t marginally over the limit, they were substantially over the limit,” he said.

The main test, done at the end of each month, usually comes back with results within three weeks.

But Metro wasn’t informed of both failures until Sept. 26 – about a month later than should have happened for the failed July test results and a day after Cache Creek landfill operator Wastech noticed the results were late and demanded the data.

“We’re working closely with Covanta to understand what happened with regard to those communication issues,” Henderson said. “They’ve told us to date there was human error in the communication.”

Cadmium exists in minute quantities in municipal garbage, from sources such as batteries, dyes and some films and plastics, Henderson said.

Environment ministry officials will decide whether the ash that was trucked to Cache Creek can stay there or has to be taken to a special waste facility.

Subsequent tests on it there found most of the sampled material is within provincial limits.

Every truckload of fly ash produced at the Burnaby incinerator since Sept. 25 has been individually tested and found to be within limits, Henderson said.

But Metro took the added precaution of shipping it to a landfill near Hinton, Alberta until more is known.

Henderson said it didn’t make sense to pile in more new ash at Cache Creek if it’s decided the July and August shipments require special treatment.

He said Metro doesn’t believe the local environment or the Wastech workers at Cache Creek were at risk, but added both Metro and the landfill operator want to ensure no ash is ever delivered again that exceeds limits.

It’s the first time in 12 years incinerator fly ash samples failed testing.

Air emissions from the Metro incinerator have always been within operating limits and are not affected by the fly ash incident, Henderson said.

Covanta Energy said in a statement it believes the summer failures were an “aberration” and the fly ash sent to Cache Creek should not be considered hazardous waste.

The firm said it’s checking its ash-conditioning process to ensure it’s working properly and there are no future problems.

“We deeply regret this event and are working to resolve this lapse in communication,” the statement said. “At no time was information related to this issue purposefully withheld.”

Surrey Coun. Marrvin Hunt, who sits on Metro’s zero waste committee, said fly ash from the initial years of the incinerator’s operation went to the long-closed Coquitlam landfill until approval was gained to send it to Cache Creek.

He said fly ash typically hardens into a cement-like material that should pose no hazard at Cache Creek.

“The greatest concern is the lack of timely reporting,” Hunt said.

Washington State landfill operator Rabanco – which has repeatedly tried to land Metro Vancouver as a customer – said its Roosevelt Regional Landfill has a special cell for incinerator ash and could accept Metro ash shipments by rail, eliminating the need for it to be trucked to Alberta.

Just Posted

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

Sarah Sache and her 11-year-old son Winston at their home, West River Farm, in Chilliwack on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Fraser Valley agriculture community offers big support for autism

Chilliwack dairy farmers, the Sache family, sing praises of Steve Saccomano’s charitable work

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family homeless after fire rips through house on Abbotsford border

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

June is Pride Month.
EDITORIAL: We can make progress during Pride Month

In Chilliwack we get ever closer to becoming a community where everyone is accepted

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

BC Lions running back John White IV (3) runs with the ball during first quarter CFL football action against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Saturday, September 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
BC Lions file trademark for new logo

Canadian Football League team files for new design on June 1

The remains of the Mid-Island Co-op in Whiskey Creek along the Alberni Highway on Friday, June 18, after a blaze the day before devastated the gas station. (Michael Briones photo)
VIDEO: Camper van explosion burns Vancouver Island gas station to the ground

Nine fire departments responded to the incident, no injuries reported

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. The website for a Broadway theatre showing "Springsteen on Broadway" said it would only allow guests "fully vaccinated with an FDA-approved vaccine" — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
No Springsteen for you: AstraZeneca not good enough to qualify for Broadway ticket

Victoria area mayor among those unable to attend New York entertainment due to COVID-19 restriction

Audrey Inouye (right) with her two sons Kiyoshi McMillan (left) and Kaito McMillian drop off her milk to hospital volunteer Sylvia Hendel at a human milk depot on October 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Fraser Health appeals for breast milk after unexplained drop in donations

Give your breast milk and save newborn lives, the health authority is encouraging mothers

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

Most Read