RDEK board office in Cranbrook. File photo.

Elk Valley to move ahead with local organics processing facility

Local directors voted to approve moving ahead with a new facility to capture organics from landfill

The RDEK’s Elk Valley directors have voted to move forward with a sub-regional organics processing facility in the valley that was put off in March.

The facility, to be built in Sparwood has 66 percent of its capital cost funding guaranteed through the province.

Discussion in the previous vote centered around the rest of the cost in constructing the facility.

Previously, only Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza had voted to proceed with the facility, with Sparwood Mayor David Wilks, Elkford Mayor Dean McKerracher and Electoral Area A director Mike Sosnowski voting to wait for more information.

In a committee vote on Thursday, May 6, Qualizza and Sosnowski voted to move forward with approving the facility, while McKerracher and Wilks again voted against, citing issues with cost.

As RDEK votes are weighted based on population of each subdivision, the process can move ahead with the support of Qualizza and Sosnowski.

Under the motion passed by the Elk Valley Directors, the operating costs per tonne of the facility cannot exceed the cost per tonne of hauling and tipping waste at the Central Sub-regional Landfill, which is north of Cranbrook. During discussion, the operating cost of hauling waste to the Central landfill from the Elk Valley was said to be $73 a tonne.

After the facility is constructed and it has gone through an operating cycle, costs will be assessed to ensure they do not exceed Central Landfill costs.

Sosnowski explained that he now supported moving ahead as the motion included stipulations that prevented the cost of the project from increasing.

The facility, which will service all of of the Elk Valley is budgeted to cost $499,740 in total, with $333,160 coming from the province, and the remaining $166,580 to be covered by a five-year loan secured by the RDEK.

The loan and its interest payments will equate to a $2 increase for the average residential property assessment across the valley (which is $379,000).

In a presentation to the local directors, Megan Lohmann of the Community Energy Association said that moving forward with an Elk Valley organics processing facility now would allow local municipalities to take advantage of the grant funding available through the province and lower costs by lumping in the Elk Valley with the RDEK’s other sub-regions, which are also moving forward with their own organics facilities. There will be three facilities built across the RDEK. Planning is currently underway for the other two (in Kimberley and Invermere), while requests for proposals (RFP’s) on construction will go out in coming months.

Lohmann added that processing waste locally helped lower costs, and the cost of construction now would be lower than in the future.

“The more we can keep locally and process locally, the less we spend transporting waste out of the valley.”

A final vote on approving the facility will take place on Friday (May 7).

In a second vote, the directors voted against the RDEK forming a plan to eventually ban commercial organics in the Elk Valley’s solid waste steam. Qualizza, McKerracher and Sosnowski voted down the proposal, with Qualizza saying she would only support such a move after a sub-regional facility was constructed.

READ MORE: Elk Valley organics program on hold

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