An Abbotsford facility that turns organic waste into soil is facing penalties for non-compliance issues under portions of the Environmental Management Act.
But Chase Edgelow, the CEO of EverGen Infrastructure Corp., which owns Net Zero Waste Abbotsford (NZWA), said the company is working to resolve the issues with the B.C. Ministry of Environmental and Climate Change and will appeal any penalties.
He said the company, which took over the facility at the beginning of 2021, is also upgrading and expanding its infrastructure – at a cost of more than $30 million over the next year – “for the betterment of local communities.”
NZWA opened in 2012 at 5050 Gladwin Rd. to turn organic waste into soil to be sold to landscapers, organic farms and the public.
Among the items the facility accepts are food waste, yard waste, unprocessed/untreated wood, plant matter, poultry carcasses and red-meat waste.
The site will also supply renewable natural gas to FortisBC by early 2023 following a 20-year agreement that was reached last fall.
Edgelow said most of the non-compliance issues listed in the latest inspection report – dated Feb. 7, 2022 – from the ministry’s environmental protection division are related to the catastrophic flooding that occurred in the area last November.
Although there are some other issues dating back to 2017, Edgelow said those occurred before EverGen took over in early 2021.
The latest report indicates that environment officers collected water samples at the site and found that the discharges exceeded the permitted levels of some effluent such as fecal coliforms, E. Coli, chloride and phosphorus.
The permit limit for fecal coliforms, for example, is 1,000 CFU (colony-forming unit) per 100 ml, but NZWA’s levels were at 68,400 CFU on Nov. 5, 1.3 million on Nov. 30, 205,000 on Dec. 15 and 172,00 on Jan. 20.
E. Coli levels are also required to be 1,000 CFU per 100 ml, but they measured 39,500 CFU on Nov. 5, 1.2 million on Nov. 20, 308,000 on Dec. 15 and 83,900 on Jan. 20, according to the report.
The report also says NZWA indicated to ministry staff that the high levels in November were due to the facility being submerged in water from the floods, preventing its normal operation.
Ministry staff were told that NZWA “had to pump and dispose of leachate several times to manage the waste following the flood, resulting in unauthorized discharges,” the report states.
However, the permit requires NZWA to submit a written report about such issues to the ministry within 30 days.
“Since no written report was provided to the director for the unauthorized discharge, Net Zero is out of compliance with this section,” the report states.
Another issue listed in the inspection report is that Net Zero’s permit allows it to accept chickens, ducks and hogs, but following the floods in November, it also took in minks.
The province placed a moratorium on new mink farms in July 2021 after several sites had animals that tested positive for COVID-19.
Edgelow said Net Zero was asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to help with “flood-related matters,” and the fines that are being recommended (no dollar value was listed in the documents) are minor in nature.
“These were penalties that were assessed during a flood-related event, and I think the easiest way to describe it is it’s like getting a parking ticket when you’re pulled over and double-parked in an emergency,” he said.
Edgelow said planned equipment and infrastructure upgrades at the facility will prepare Net Zero to “handle and process waste to the highest value and use that benefits our communities.”
“When (EverGen) acquired the facility, we really came in with the mindset of putting in world-class facilities that can really improve the way that organic waste is managed,” he said.
“Ultimately, the whole premise behind people sorting their organic waste is that it’s going to a better place than a landfill. I think the reality is that a lot of the waste in Metro Vancouver is still going to facilities that don’t capture the energy from that waste.”
The inspection record is now being being referred for an administrative penalty, which can be as high as $10,000.
The Net Zero Waste Eastgate facility – not owned by EverGen – near Princeton received a warning letter from the ministry earlier this year, alleging there were several non-compliance issues, including in relation to pig carcasses processed there after the flooding.
But the company said there were inaccuracies in the report, and Net Zero Waste Eastgate planned to respond to the claims.