Rob Hutchins was chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) in 1998 when the incinerator was shut down in Ladysmith and the community went through what he recalls as “the garbage wars.”
And last week, the mayor of Ladysmith was standing in that same place — as chair of the CVRD once again — to help break ground on the construction of the new CVRD Zero Waste Recycling Centre on Peerless Road.
As of April 17, the Peerless Road Recycling Depot is closed and undergoing significant renewal and expansion. A ground breaking ceremony took place Tuesday, April 16 at the site, and construction was expected to begin the next day.
The second phase of the project, which focuses on building construction, will likely commence in mid-July, and the project is expected to be completed in the late fall.
Originally, the Peerless Road site was dedicated to the incineration of garbage, and that process carried on for decades, explained Jason Adair, the CVRD’s solid waste operations superintendent.
“We stopped that practice and converted the site into a recycling depot, but it was never designed for that purpose so it’s quite a difficult site to navigate and very busy and too small for the requirements,” he said. “Another consequence of this being an incinerator is that there are 45,000 cubic metres of ash here, going down about 20 to 30 feet. That’s a liability that has to be dealt with, and if we were to deal with that off-site, it would cost about $10 million to haul it to a special landfill.”
The CVRD will keep the ash and use it as fill.
“As part of phase one of the project, the ash will be unearthed and enclosed within an on-site engineered cell in accordance with all Ministry of Environment guidelines,” explained Adair. “In fact, it’s in the spirit of reuse that the ash will serve as a form of fully-contained structural fill behind new lock-block walls and under special sealed liners and aggregate before being capped with impermeable asphalt, forming the base for the public drop off area. Using the ash was considerably less costly — $8 million less — than shipping it off-site to deal with it.”
The CVRD will be reusing the existing steel incinerator building and giving it a facelift to turn it into “the heart of the new facility,” surrounded by the reused asphalt base for the expanded recycling drop off depot, explained Adair.
“Residents can look forward to 21 grade-separated bays for dropping off materials — the largest on Vancouver Island, if not British Columbia — as well as several covered areas and a great deal of green space,” he said. “The new site layout is designed to reduce traffic congestion while the expanded recycling facility will offer the broadest range of recycling options in the province with over 500 separate recyclable items. There will be a state-of-the-art scale house for folks to enter the site, and it’s going to be designed to be a state-of-the-art facility. In fact, it will probably be the only facility of its kind in British Columbia.
“This is designed as a neighbourhood-friendly recycling depot; we’re working really hard to meet the needs of residents to reach zero waste. You’re going to be able to recycle over 500 different items here, and it’s a key part of our zero waste goal.”
Some of the green features being incorporated into the project include bio-swales for storm water treatment, native plant landscaping and passive solar heat technology, as well as using compost from locally processed food waste to fertilize landscaped materials, and recycling recovered metals, which have been buried for years in the accumulated ash field, and recycling local plastic materials and using them in the construction of on-site benches and fencing.
This is a $4-million upgrade to the facility, and the project received $1.7 million in federal gas tax funding, explained Adair.
Hutchins says it was “an ugly time” when the incinerator was closed in 1998.
“Believe it or not, this belching incinerator was loved, and I mean deeply loved, by the community,” he said. “They just loved putting their garbage in — this was before organic diversion and before recycling in any meaningful way. It was part of that whole transition period, and unfortunately, for some 20 years, we polluted. Not only did we leave 45,000 tonnes of bottom ash, which we’re starting to deal with today, but we spewed thousands of tonnes of fly ash through the air full of carcinogens.”
Hutchins was excited to move forward on the recycling upgrade.
“It’s taken us a while, but I’m glad we’re here today,” he said. “What we’re seeing here today is a significant investment in doing what’s better for our environment, and hopefully that dramatically increases the recycling opportunities for our community.”
During the upgrades, the existing Peerless site will be closed, and a temporary drop-off depot will be located at the old Saltair Recycling Yard at 4142 Thicke Rd. The site’s hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
Ron Jackson lives right beside the temporary drop-off depot, and he is worried about the increased traffic along Thicke Road and about the setup of the site. He has lived on Thicke Road since 1984.
“My drive right now is trying to talk to someone at the CVRD to get them to do a few things over there [at the temporary site] to make it more bearable for me, and to keep this road dust-free,” he said.
Jackson says some of the changes that could make improve the drop-off site include moving the big garbage bin farther away from his home so that he isn’t affected by the smell in the summer heat, as well as turning the semis that are on the site so that they block his property and give him more privacy. As well, Jackson thinks the CVRD should move the site farther back onto the property so that people drive in further and there aren’t as many people on Thicke Road waiting to get into the site.
Jackson has lived on Thicke Road since 1984, and the temporary drop-off site is right beside his property.
“No person from the CVRD has come and said a word to me,” he said. “That’s a very intrusive thing going on right now. That’s going to become even more intrusive in the summer — if they leave that garbage bin in there, it’s going to reek.”’
Jackson feels the CVRD should clean all the ash up first before building something new on the Peerless Road site, and he feels the temporary depot isn’t even needed.
“They have a vast area in here [at the Peerless Road site] and don’t need to be over there, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Clean this [Peerless Road site] up and build it farther back on the property. We certainly don’t need $4.3 million spent basically on a depot to put your waste in. Clean the mess up first, then do the next stage.”
Jackson is also concerned about safety along Thicke Road.
“I’ve managed to get them to water the road down to keep the dust down, but I think that road’s unsafe as it is,” he said. “It’s narrow, it has cars and logging trucks and chip trucks going up and down. I think that road’s very dangerous. I’m very concerned about people being hit or there being an accident on this road.”