In Delta, where I live, we play host to the garbage of Vancouver, Richmond, south Surrey, White Rock and Richmond, not to mention our own.
Please, don't give it another thought. I know you don't.
That's the thing about garbage: out of sight, out of mind.
But I sometimes think that however convenient it might be for me to be able to truck my garden waste or old appliances a couple of miles down the street to the dump, it might also be instructive for the citizens of Vancouver or Richmond or south Surrey to start a dump in their own municipalities and live with that eye-watering smell of soiled baby diapers that so often emanates from the dump and wafts over the adjoining fields. There's no aroma quite like it. I wonder how the folks in Dunbar would like living next to that. It brings a whole new appreciation and sense of urgency to where we put our garbage.
The folks at Metro Vancouver, whose job it is to find places to put that garbage, have tried to solve that question of where to put our garbage for over a decade. To no avail.
Originally, with room running out at the Vancouver dump and the Cache Creek disposal site up-country, Metro Vancouver acquired the Ashcroft Ranch, six kilometres away from the Cache Creek site. It was private land. When a local native band made known its intentions to challenge the establishment of a dump in court, the provincial government nixed the Ashcroft plan because it was afraid of what repercussions a successful court challenge to a fee-simple title might have elsewhere in the province.
Back to the drawing board. Encouraged by the province, Metro explored the idea of trucking the garbage out of province to Washington state. In this, it was only following the lead of several B.C. communities that already did so, including, notably, Whistler.
Then -- surprise! -- the province announced its intention in this year's budget to outlaw exporting of garbage. What unlucky, not to mention inexplicable, timing.
Trucking garbage out of province, however, was only intended as an interim solution. Metro Vancouver's long-term plan was its waste-to-energy proposal -- the construction of a half dozen incinerator plants in the Metro area that would generate electricity and heat local homes.
Despite years of exhaustive studies that found that, since 1997, incinerator technology had improved to the point that pollutant levels would be well below all international health tolerances, and that detrimental effects to ambient air quality downwind would be so negligible as to be barely detectable, and despite the fact that the technology was already widely used in Europe, and despite the fact that there was already a working waste-to-energy incinerator in Burnaby (which Metro Vancouver chief administrative officer Johnny Carline lives directly downwind of, incidentally), Metro Vancouver's campaign for the incinerators has been a hard sell.
The public, we are told, wants nothing to do with them.
How do we know this?
Well, a day before Metro Vancouver launched a series of public meetings on the waste-to-energy plan, an Angus Reid poll was released that found 65 per cent of respondents believed incineration would have a negative effect on air quality.
What a fortuitous act of public service that was. Of course, the poll was commissioned by Belkorp Environmental Services Inc., which owns a company called Wastech, which operates the Cache Creek landfill, to which Wastech desperately wants the province to approve a 40-hectare extension that would keep it open for decades to come.
Belkorp, by the way, can claim among its administration senior vice-president Gary Collins, the former Liberal finance minister. It also hired to lobby for the Cache Creek extension uber-lobbyist and former deputy minister to the premier Ken Dobell.
There are other players who want our garbage. Some local industries want to burn it. Fort St. John wants some action. In Gold River on Vancouver Island, Covanta Energy, the largest waste-to-energy company in the world, wants to build an incinerator to burn our garbage to produce, and sell, electricity. To do its lobbying for the Gold River plant, Covanta hired Andrew Wilkinson, former deputy minister and past president of the B.C. Liberal party. Adding weight to Covanta's local position is its announcement in July of its intention to buy seven waste-to-energy facilities in North America from Veolia Environmental. Among those seven that Covanta is buying is the Burnaby incinerator.
Burned or buried, Metro Vancouver's garbage is going to be worth several tens of millions of dollars a year. Trash isn't the issue here. Cash is.
As for Metro Vancouver having any input in that, if history is any indication, I'd say it's already up in smoke.
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