Opinion

COLUMN: No more dumping at Burns Bog dump

The decision by the Metro Vancouver board to divert all Lower Mainland garbage to Burns Bog, and eventually into a series of new incinerators, flies in the face of so many regional concerns that it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s start with the bog. This is a precious environmental jewel, and has been recognized as such by all levels of government, who combined to buy most of it from its former owners.

It is true that the garbage dump, owned by the City of Vancouver, sits on the edge of the bog – but it is still part of the bog. It is a disgrace, and should be shut down as soon as possible, not keep going until 2037, as Delta Mayor Lois Jackson suggests could happen.

It should never be used as a repository for even more garbage, as Metro’s decision calls for.

Keep in mind that, despite the best efforts of engineers, some residue from garbage leaches into the soil. Some of this leachate almost certainly finds its way into the protected portion of Burns Bog, and some gets into the Fraser River – the home of many marine creatures and the greatest salmon runs in B.C.

Because we live in a very wet climate, there is more leachate from dumps here. That’s why it has made sense to have dumps in the dry areas of the Interior, like Cache Creek.

Logan Lake would be happy to take Metro Vancouver’s garbage and put it in an old mine site, where huge quantities of rock have been taken from the earth to extract copper ore.

Then there’s the issue of air quality. Metro Vancouver claims that new models of incinerators will produce electricity while having very low emissions. It wants most garbage diverted to these new incinerators. There could be as many as six of them.

Air emissions, even in very low quantities, are not acceptable.

We have been told by regional politicians for more than 20 years that there was too much air pollution. They’ve gone after people who burn wood in their fireplaces; people who use gas-powered lawnmowers; ships in port and those who burn tree branches.

Yet now they want to burn millions of tonnes of garbage each year and create far more air pollution?

Politicians set up AirCare to cut emissions. Abbotsford residents and others fought the SE2 proposal for years.

Even though SE2 did not go ahead and newer vehicles produce much lower levels of emissions, we still have air quality problems – particularly in the summer months.

Metro Vancouver itself monitors air quality and has the ability to fine polluters. So how can it get away with suggesting more pollution?

It is hypocrisy at its rankest.

It’s also important to note that the provincial government wants to be among the greenest in North America. It wants to significantly lower greenhouse gas levels by 2020.

How can a plan for incinerators dovetail with this objective?

Mayor Jackson defended the Metro Vancouver decision in a letter to the editor. She noted that another part of the plan calls for diverting 70 per cent of waste away from dumps. Composting and more recycling are suggested.

This is good – but reality says that it will be tough to reduce garbage by that amount. The population is growing; packaging is more complex; and people are far more prone to throw things away that they’ve ever been.

The existing recycling programs don’t always work. There have been numerous complaints from citizens that the new garbage contractor in Surrey, IPI, is on occasion mixing recyclables with garbage at the roadside.

While this may be isolated, who is ensuring that this is not happening?

There should be no additional dumping at Burns Bog. The City of Vancouver, Delta and Metro Vancouver should come up with a plan to close that dump within five years, as part of the larger waste management strategy.

If garbage is to be burned in incinerators, such burning should take place outside the Lower Mainland, in a place where air conditions are better.

Any dumping of waste should take place either in the Interior or at the Rabanco facility in Washington state.

Both are in dry areas, and any garbage shipped to either should go by rail – the most environmentally-friendly mode of transport.

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