The question of what role the provincial government will play in signing off on the proposed waste recycling plant unanimously approved by Chilliwack city council last month is still swirling.
Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley is part of an ad hoc coalition of about 20 groups still trying to fight the proposed location for the facility, in the Cattermole Lands by the Fraser River.
The potential for a “catastrophic fish kill” in the river, should there be a major spill, is one of the concerns that keeps getting repeated.
The rezoning application by Aevitas Inc. is sitting at third reading at Chilliwack city hall.
Fourth and final reading is pending registration of a restrictive covenant and signing of the Good Neighbour Agreement.
“What we’re trying to figure out is how the province will sign off on this,” said Friends of the CRV spokesman Glen Thompson. “At this point it doesn’t look like an environment assessment will be required as one doesn’t appear to be in the queue.”
Thompson and volunteers have been banging on doors on nearby Chilliwack Mountain in the weeks since the rezoning hearing on Dec. 3 in an effort to gauge and raise awareness. Many had not heard about the waste recycling facility proposal for Cannor Road.
Several First Nations, sport fishing and river stewardship groups have stated their opposition to the riverside location.
“It seems the thresholds are not high enough for an assessment,” said Thompson. “If you process a certain tonnage (of certain materials) per day, the site would require an environmental assessment process.”
One issue is the covenant, which they feel is inadequate.
“What they’re attempting to do is good. But we don’t think the covenant will achieve the level of protection that they’ve agreed to.
“What happens if there’s a toxic spill in the river?”
The covenant does include protocols for emergency evacuation in the case of a high-water alert, more.
So precisely how will the province and Ministry of Environment will sign off on the project? Authorization for a hazardous waste transfer facility is required under the Environmental Management Act and the Hazardous Waste Regulation, according to city staff.
Before being issued a waste transfer permit, the applicant would have to spell out and define containment requirements as well as monitoring and reporting processes. The assessment will be in the form of a technical review, said staff.
Aevitas Inc., which has recycling facilities in Alberta and Ontario, has listed mercury and PCBs as among the waste materials it intends to either recycle or transfer at the site.
Many opponents have stated it is the plant’s proximity to the river that is vexing and worrisome given the handling and transfer of hazardous waste next one of the most productive salmon rivers in the world.
The opposition has suggested city officials had a desire to “fast-track” the rezoning, but there is no evidence of this.
City officials hosted a duly convened public meeting Dec. 3 to hear comments on Aevitas’ application to rezone a 1.78-ha portion of property from an M4 (Heavy Industrial) Zone to an M6 (Special Industrial) Zone to facilitate the construction of a waste recycling and transfer facility.
The public was invited offer feedback on the rezoning at that time. At the end of the hearing, council members, satisfied with the land-use, passed second and third reading, citing the track record of the applicant, the comprehensive plans submitted, and the safeguards to be put in place through both the restrictive covenant and the Ministry of Environment approval process.