New incinerator rules under fire from Fraser Valley

FVRD objects as province prepares to approve revised conditions for Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy plant

Aerial view of Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy plant in south Burnaby.

Aerial view of Metro Vancouver waste-to-energy plant in south Burnaby.

The B.C. government is poised to approve new standards for how Metro Vancouver’s garbage incinerator must operate and report its emissions.

And the Fraser Valley Regional District is objecting, saying the revised rules will not be tough enough.

“The provisions are far from world-leading,” said Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz, chair of the FVRD board, adding her regional district’s concerns have been “underestimated, brushed off and not answered” by both Metro and the provincial environment ministry.

After a two-year process, the province has unveiled a draft new operational certificate for the existing WTE plant and it’s gone through a final 30-day public comment period.

The FVRD has responded with a long list of deficiencies.

Valley politicians have long fought both the existing waste-to-energy plant in Burnaby as well as Metro’s strategy to build a new one as it shifts away from landfilling garbage.

Gaetz maintains the existing plant poses a significant air pollution threat to the Fraser Valley and the province’s approach to updating its operating requirements sends a “concerning” signal of how it may go about approving a new Metro incinerator.

“If this is approved, I’d be incredulous,” she said.

Among the FVRD’s demands are that the WTE plant adopt continuous monitoring of air pollutants, instead of periodic testing, where results might appear cleaner if a different grade of garbage is burned on the test day.

They also want testing for a broader range of substances, and more study of the incinerator’s impacts on soil, water quality, vegetation and crops.

Gaetz said the new draft certificate would actually relax some of the existing monitoring requirements – Metro’s plant would no longer have to test for substances like antimony, cobalt, copper and nickel.

The proposed certificate will require specific management plans to be drafted for fly ash and bottom ash, and for publishing monitoring data online, but the FVRD argues those should be in place before the renewal is approved, not months later.

And the FVRD wants the environment ministry to state whether and when it would audit the plant, and clearly indicate what penalties will apply for non-compliance.

Cadmium has been found in the incinerator’s bottom ash – it’s believed to come from batteries that get burned, despite attempts to get Metro residents to recycle them.

“We know that’s up in the air and people have been breathing it,” Gaetz said. “We know what cadmium does to people. We know what nickel does to people. We know that what’s coming out of the stack is harmful to human health.”

Instead of a new certificate that could effectively freeze monitoring requirements for decades, Gaetz said, the FVRD would prefer a phase out of the plant, which burns 285,000 tonnes of waste per year.

“I have serious concerns with any incineration. It’s backwards, old-fashioned technology that has had its day and should be gone,” she said.

“If we had our wish, it would be shut down and Metro would have another plan in place to be able to deal with the garbage rather than burning it and putting it in a landfill in the sky.”

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro’s zero waste committee, called the FVRD position “unfortunate.”

He said Metro has made major upgrades in the last couple of years to “dramatically” reduce the emissions the waste-to-energy plant releases.

The latest $7 million retrofit cut nitrogen oxide emissions by half. The plant now accounts for 0.4 per cent of the NOx emitted in the region, down from 0.8 per cent in 2014.

“We’ve been investing significant dollars bringing up the environmental performance of that facility,” Brodie said, adding Metro remains committed to continuous improvement.

“I believe the most environmentally friendly solution for our solid waste and the most cost-effective is waste-to-energy.”

 

 

A load of garbage is hoisted at Metro Vancouver’s Waste To Energy Facility in Burnaby.Black Press file photo.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Inez Louis opens up about testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 3, 2020. (Inez Louis/Facebook)
Juno-nominated singer and Indigenous health planner goes public about testing positive for COVID-19

In a livestream from bed, Inez Louis begs everyone to ‘do the right thing’ and follow health orders

Former Hope resident Jason Thomas Graff is set to be sentenced on charges of telecommunicating to lure a child and posession of child pornography at the Chilliwack Law Courts Jan. 28. (File photo)
Former Hope resident to be sentenced for child luring in Chilliwack court

Sentencing Jan. 28 at Chilliwack Law Courts following offences in Hope, Vancouver Island

A black-capped chickadee tolerates the 40 below zero weather. (File)
Harrison Christmas Bird Count taking flight

Local bird watchers help with worldwide bird tracking effort

RCMP don’t want to see you having your vehicle towed away after an aggressive driving infraction. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP hand out more than 500 tickets in aggressive driving crackdown

Police say they’ll continue to focus on speeding, aggressive and distracted driving

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Prisoner shot at by guards in Abbotsford had history of escapes

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

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 demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read