Region expresses opposition to any waste incinerator plan

NANAIMO – Project builders met with politicians, media last week to explain technology behind facility

The chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo continues to oppose a waste-to-energy incinerator at Duke Point, despite proponents’ pleas to give the idea a chance.

Representatives from Wheelabrator Technologies and Urbaser met with local government officials last week to sell the idea of a waste-to-energy garbage incinerator in Nanaimo.

The companies are among 10 bidders that have been asked by Metro Vancouver to propose sites for a new waste-to-energy facility, which would burn 370,000 tonnes of garbage each year. The proponents – Mark Swartz of Wheelabrator and Urbaser’s David Garcia De Herreros – said they are concerned the Harbour City is closing its doors to a potential waste incinerator before the concept has been given a fair review.

Residents have been voicing opposition to the incinerator since Metro Vancouver announced it was searching for potential out-of-region sites earlier this year.

The RDN has formally opposed Metro Vancouver’s waste incinerator in the Nanaimo region and city officials are currently investigating the possibilities and consequences of preventing the facility at Duke Point.

Proponents claim misinformation has influenced attitudes about the waste-to-energy facilitator. They say it could be a positive for the city, generating hundreds of jobs and heat and steam for nearby businesses.

It could also eventually be a B.C. solution to garbage, accepting waste from districts beyond Metro Vancouver.

RDN chairman Joe Stanhope said conversations with the proponents has him no more convinced the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks, including air pollution.

“I know how valuable our quality of life is here and our air and water and all the other resources,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest attractions and why people come here and I’m not going to jeopardize that for a few extra jobs.”

RDN directors Diane Brennan and Howard Houle did not meet with representatives of Wheelabrator and Urbaser, but say they also stand by their decision to oppose Metro Vancouver’s incinerator at Duke Point. Houle said Gabriola islanders already smell the composting plant across the channel and he’s concerned there would be more stink with the incinerator. He also has concerns about toxic ash.

“I think Metro Vancouver should burn their garbage in Metro Vancouver, not over here,” he said, adding that he’ll not open his mind to the concept.

Swartz and de Herreros toured the Nanaimo region with Seaspan representative, John Lucas, handing out pamphlets and studies as part of an early business case for the $500-million facility.

According to the trio, Nanaimo is an ideal spot for a waste-to-energy incinerator with it being just across the channel from the Lower Mainland. Duke Point is already part of an existing transportation route and a facility could help anchor a new eco-park in the industrial area.

As part of the proposal, Seaspan would lease up to 15 acres to developers for the facility and it would use its marine transport system to barge 36 closed containers of waste from the mainland every two days.

While proponents were reluctant to divulge too many details about the project because of an ongoing procurement process, they said the facility would convert non-recyclable refuse into energy and the excess heat and steam produced would be made available to nearby businesses. No garbage would be left out in the open at the facility and emissions controls, like air locks, would eliminate smells from the facility. Bottom ash produced during the waste-to-energy process would be captured and recycled while fly ash would go to the landfill.

Three hundred jobs are expected to be generated during the two to three years of construction and 70 permanent jobs after it opens. The proponents wouldn’t say how large they expect the facility to be, but said it could eventually take on more garbage from other B.C communities.

Metro Vancouver intends to pick a site for the new incinerator by 2015 and is considering in- and out-of-region options.