A proposal to construct an organics processing facility to serve the Elk Valley is on hold, after the local directors with the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) voted to request more information on funding.
The East Kootenay Regionally Integrated Resource Recovery Network would see organic waste separated from solid waste across the sub-regions of the RDEK, with the Elk Valley sub-region envisioned to have a processing facility in Sparwood.
But at the recent Elk Valley Services Committee, the majority of local directors voted to remove the item from the agenda until it could be brought back with more information on specifics around location, cost, and business plan.
Mayor Ange Qualizza of the City of Fernie – who was the only local director to vote to proceed with the item – said she was extremely disappointed by the decision.
“When the Province announced an opportunity to receive two-thirds funding for this project the RDEK Board enthusiastically supported applying for it, looking toward the near future when diverting organics might soon be a requirement, not a target,” she said.
“This is an opportunity to make a long-term sustainable decision on our waste management. Currently, we pay over $70 per tonne to deal with our household waste. With a local facility, we would have an opportunity to produce the Class A compost required for our municipal landscaping and turf management, closing the loop on our waste.”
The other RDEK sub-regions voted to proceed with their local projects, with one facility in Kimberley and the other in Invermere.
Sparwood Mayor David Wilks, who voted to request more information, said that he had long stressed the need for more information on costs that would fall to local municipalities, and a detailed plan on how the project would operate locally.
Wilks said that given an organics facility at the Sparwood transfer station was estimated to cost $999,480, with two thirds coming from the provincial BC Organics Grant and another $166,580 coming from further grants (which he noted weren’t locked in) – there were too many questions around where the rest of the funds came from.
“We know who’s going to pay for the other $166,580 – it’s going to be the taxpayer. There’s no other way around it.”
Wilks said that while he believed organics and composting was a great idea, “lets have a plan.”
He said he had requested more detailed information prior to the item coming before the Services Committee, and was yet to receive an answer – hence, his vote to put the item off. Mayor Dean McKerracher and Electoral Area A Director, Mike Sosnowski also voted to wait for more information.
According to the RDEK, the project is not dead as there is no set timeline for the district. The RDEK’s Community Energy Manager is continuing to work on Phase 1 of the project, which focuses on establishing receiving facilities for compost.
“The Board is looking for more specific information on the potential locations and a more detailed list of how the roll-out would look for this phase,” said an RDEK spokesperson.
The Community Energy Manager has also been asked to explore whether there may be an opportunity to work with industry to house the receiving facility on their lands, as opposed to the current proposed location at our Sparwood Transfer Station.
Mayor Qualizza said the future of the Elk Valley’s composting plans were for now, “uncertain”, and she would be working with the RDEK’s Community Energy Manager to try to ensure the opportunity was not lost.
“The Central and Columbia Valley sub-regions are proceeding with their organic processing facilities under the same program. In order to maximize the local benefits of reduced transportation and disposal fees, reduced emissions and production of Class A organics for local municipal use, an Elk Valley facility is the priority opportunity. With the Province identifying a Clean BC target of diverting 95 per cent of organics from landfills by 2030, for us to walk away from a grant that will pay for two-thirds of the capital cost to build the facility seems like a decision that will only cost our community money in the near future.”
On questions around cost and participation, Qualizza said that while future participation in a sub-regional program was unknown for now, there were greater benefits down the line.
In a related matter, the City of Fernie voted late last year to pursue it’s own grant funds for an organic waste collection program within the municipality. When councillors voted to apply for almost $200,000 in funds through the CleanBC Organic Infrastructure and Collection Program, the then-upcoming vote on a wider RDEK organics program was regarded as a positive for the city’s own plans, as waste collected in Fernie would be taken to the Sparwood location for processing.
Under the RDEK-wide program, as presented to RDEK directors, on a yearly basis, the RDEK estimated that 8,715 tonnes of waste are generated in the Elk Valley, with some 2,527 tonnes being organic.
The first year estimate for what an Elk Valley organics facility would capture is 126 tonnes, with an increase to 417 the next year after Fernie’s own curbside collection comes online, should the city be granted the funding it requested.