Better air quality is coming down the pipe for Chilliwack with a $3.5 million boost from the federal gas tax fund to build a methane extraction system at the Bailey landfill.
The new system will help create jobs and foster growth, said Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl, and he offered his “sincere congratulations” to Chilliwack on the project at the announcement Saturday in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre.
“Our government is proud to invest in Chilliwack’s next-generation gas extraction system, a project that will contribute to the economy and improve the environment through innovative technologies,” he said.
A trench network will go in at the site between now and 2014 that will see methane gas drawn into a pipe and then burned off to substantially cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Chilliwack will become one of only eight communities in B.C. with this type of technology, with a series of pipes and wells installed in stages to collect leaching methane gas.
Chilliwack-Hope MLA Barry Penner remembered discussions years ago when he was environment minister, talking with Chilliwack council about what it was going to do about offsetting the negative impacts of the landfill with infrastructure.
“It is hoped in the not-too-distant future that we’ll actually be able to capture, either in a bottle or in a tank, the methane for other uses,” said Penner.
At this point equipment and installation costs don’t make it financially viable, but Penner noted it’s a “big step” for Chilliwack nonetheless to get the technology.
“But maybe in the future it will become more economical to use the methane gas that gets extracted,” he said.
The project cost was covered entirely by gas tax funds, and the province provided technical reviews which helped expedite it. The UBCM administers the tax fund in B.C., which the federal government funds nationally with $2 billion each year .
Mayor Sharon Gaetz thanked her federal and provincial counterparts for helping to make this “worthy” project a reality.
“We think $3.5 million is a huge whack of cash,” she said, explaining that the project otherwise would have cost taxpayers the equivalent of a six per cent tax increase, or more.
“This new system will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help improve air quality across the region, both of which are priorities for Chilliwack residents,” said the mayor.
With a national infrastructure deficit crisis afoot, cities have been “scrambling” to find ways to increase infrastructure without incurring debt, she said.
“We’re very encouraged when we see these things are possible,” said Gaetz.
Methane gases are created by the microbes in the landfill acting on the organic matter to break it down into a gas. A tonne of methane gas produces more than 20 times the pollutants compared to a tonne of carbon dioxide.
A request for expressions of interest will go out in January 2012 for the design-build methane gas extraction project, with construction expected to start by mid-summer at the landfill on Bailey Road.