Waste recycling company founder says Fraser River will be protected

“We’ve looked everywhere,” said an Aevitas rep, about the proposed Chilliwack spot."It was not a random location pulled out of a hat.”

Site of the proposed Aevitas waste recycling plant (right) in the Cattermole Industrial Estates.

Site of the proposed Aevitas waste recycling plant (right) in the Cattermole Industrial Estates.

The Aevitas waste recycling and transfer facility slated for Cannor Road in Chilliwack would be built in such a way that materials would never drain into the Fraser River.

That was one of the points made by Aevitas president Byron Day in a conversation with the Chilliwack Progress on Tuesday.

Day wants people to know the company’s ultimate intention is to protect the river and the environment.

“That’s what we do,” he said.

The facility has come under intense scrutiny ever since it was learned that low-level PCB-contaminated oil and small amounts of mercury would be handled there.

Although the City of Chilliwack’s rezoning process is complete, there is still a provincial government review to be completed in the coming months, along with the possibility of more consultation with local First Nations, Day said.

“Although it’s not a requirement, we definitely intend to consult First Nations. That’s been our plan all along.

“Our ears are still open,” he said.

He sought out Ernie Crey, fisheries advisor for Sto:lo Tribal Council, to talk about the facility plan after the December public hearing.

Day is one of two co-owners, who founded Aevitas in 1992. They were environmental consultants who initially recognized a growing national PCB problem with light ballasts.

“So we developed a specialized process with Environment Canada for recycling the insulating oil, which can then be re-used.”

In fact one of the recipients of recycled oil from Aevitas will be a local manufacturer based in Chilliwack.

“I think it would be a great facility for the area.”

The fierce opposition has focused on the proposed riverside location, but not the actual recycling work done by Aevitas.

“That’s what frustrates us. We’re on the same page here,” he said. “We are an environmental company focused on recycling.”

The proposed location in the industrial section of Chilliwack has been in the crosshairs of the opposition coalition of environmental, sport fishing and First Nations groups.

“One of the reasons why we like the location is that it is in a diked area,” said Day. “If there was a major spill, it’s not going anywhere from those areas, and it won’t free drain into the river.”

The floors will be built above the catastrophic flood level.

“So the whole facility could take a flood and not be affected,” underlined the Aevitas president.

More than 20 groups are opposed to the proposal to build a hazardous waste recycling and transfer facility on Cannor Road.

They need to know there are “multiple layers” of protection that are actually standard with this kind of specialized recycling operation, such as geo membranes and clay liners, even a three-phase separator where materials flow into a containment area. Conditions for this type of plant include not siting it anywhere on a fault line, like in Abbotsford, for example or in highly populated or mountainous areas.

“The clay liner will make the ground impervious,” he said. “Nothing can penetrate.”

Day said he was somewhat surprised at the level of opposition.

“All we were trying to do is determine if we would be purchasing the property,” he said. The offer to purchase was pending the rezoning and provincial approval.

The search for the right location has been exhaustive, taking nine months.

“We’ve looked everywhere,” said Day. “I’d love to hear of another suitable spot. It was not a random location pulled out of a hat.”

So did they anticipate this level of opposition?

“We always get a certain level, but usually we get more of a warm welcome,” Day admitted.

“What’s important here is we’re not generating waste, or bringing any in from the U.S., the whole reason why we’re setting this up in the Lower Mainland is to handle the waste generated in B.C.”

Some opposed to the location have down-played the recycling aspect of their operation. But it’s legit, he said.

“We are a recycler. We recycle 99 per cent of the lamps including the glass, aluminum, brass clips, even the phosphor lining which no other company does, as well as the mercury powder.”

Day has been hearing a lot of “strange” ideas that have the facts wrong. They’re more than willing to provide further clarification to anyone who asks. The only call he has actually received on this file is from NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert.

“I even heard someone say we’re going to bring waste up the river. But that’s not even a means of transportation that’s legal. There is definitely a lot of false information going around.”

Now that the municipal process is over, they are looking to the next steps.

“At this point, from everything I’ve seen, I can’t see us changing the location. But if someone had a suggestion that met all of our requirements, we would definitely consider it.”