Behind the grove of trees on the hillside above Willingdon Beach, qathet Regional District’s (qRD) resource-recovery centre and transfer station is under construction, preparing new and progressive ways for residents of the qathet region to deal with solid waste.
“The site is really taking shape,” said Tai Uhlmann, a Let’s Talk Trash team member. “For one of the primary buildings, the commercial waste-transfer station, the walls are going up and they're pouring the slab floor. The scale house and the site office, two really important structures, are up and roofs are going on.
“The footings for the extended producer responsibility (EPR) building, which is the recycling and reuse centre, are being poured and prep work for the installation of the scales is ongoing.”
Another big piece is that the paving of the access road, transfer station and parking areas should happen in September, said Uhlmann. She said the hope is that paving can be completed by the end of September.
Uhlmann said that throughout the construction process, crews are working to divert clean waste wood and other materials and use them in the project.
“We’re walking the walk, so to speak,” said Uhlmann. “Some of that clean wood is going to the social enterprise, OneLight, for their fire starters, and other wood is going for reuse. Recyclables, compost and metals are also being diverted.
“We are still using as much of the material on site as we can. As an example, the kitchens that will be in three of the buildings are being built right now by local carpenter Valentin Geoffray from wood that was taken from the site and milled locally.”
Arnold Schwabe, qRD manager of asset management and strategic initiatives, said the project team hires local contractors and workers as much as it can.
“Our biggest struggle to date has been local carpenters,” said Schwabe.
Uhlmann said it has been a priority trying to bring on as many local contractors as possible.
In terms of the project going according to plan, Schwabe said everybody involved has done a good job of trying to keep it on schedule.
“As with any civil works, you don't know what's in the ground,” said Schwabe. “So, when you open the ground, and especially at a site such as this, you're never sure. That might have set the project back a little bit at the beginning. We are still finding new things, but our schedule is for early next year for completion.
“We are hoping for a soft opening with commercial vehicles, and by the summer of 2024, we are hoping for full operation.”
When people go to the resource-recovery centre and transfer station, they will note the well-thought-out site design. Uhlmann said the site design follows the zero-waste hierarchy of diversion – first rethink, reduce, reuse and then recycle and compost before any disposal to landfill.
“The access road will bring residents and commercial vehicles into the site and the first stop is what we're calling the free side; that is the reuse and recycling building,” said Uhlmann. “That's going to host all the EPR programs similar to the Town Centre Recycling Depot, but with more programs, including local diversion bins. It will also house a little free store and a workshop space. Across from the EPR space there's a small structure that is intended for a social enterprise to divert primarily reusable building materials from the waste stream to support their programming. That would be on the free side.
“Then, there is the pay side that includes the scale house, site office, an education centre, bunkers and bins, and then the enclosed commercial transfer station, which has two bays to collect and transfer municipal solid waste or garbage, and compost.”
Uhlmann said the regional district was successful in receiving a $1 million rural economic diversification and infrastructure program grant to help fund the diversion infrastructure being built into the project.
“When you first enter the transfer station side, your first stop is going to be a covered area where staff can help take out any materials that would be valuable for reuse,” said Uhlmann.
Schwabe said it is the regional district’s hope that as much material as possible can be diverted away from being transported to Washington State as landfill. Organic products are about 40 per cent of the waste stream, so if 50 to 60 per cent of what is coming into the resource-recovery centre and transfer station can be removed from the solid waste stream, that would be fantastic, he added.
Something that will be immediately apparent to those using the facilities is the park-like setting. Western Forest Products donated approximately 3,000 seedlings to help revegetate the site. The location already has many trees in its natural environment, as well as ponds.
“Those spaces are really park-like for recreation,” said Uhlmann. “The green space and the ponds serve a dual function. They filter stormwater and create habitat, so it was part of a natural asset solution instead of human-made concrete infrastructure. The project’s design takes care of stormwater runoff and helps filter the water before it moves on toward the ocean.”
Schwabe said the resource-recovery centre and transfer station have become a natural area right up to the boundaries of the road.
“It’s going to be one of the prettiest facilities around,” said Uhlmann. “We have the good fortune of being surrounded by trees and parks.”
Schwabe said the whole area was designated a park at one point, but it has been used for many different purposes over the years.
“It will be more park-like when we’re done,” said Schwabe. “For example, there will be a little grass amphitheatre for live performances.”
Uhlmann said there will also be an active transportation corridor so people can skip the hill, known as the beginning of “the cut.”
In planning the facility, Let’s Talk Trash team members and regional district staff have toured other solid-waste facilities and have noted great design and best practices, which have been incorporated into the qathet project.
Efforts have been made to use as many materials as possible from the site to build it up. The builders have used as much sand and gravel as possible to avoid having to truck materials in.
Builders have also been able to use excess incinerator ash as fill, which was also done at the Cowichan Valley Regional District Peerless Road recycling facility. BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy permitted use of the ash as fill, rather than having to truck it out, since the material will be encapsulated and enclosed under an impermeable paved surface.
Uhlmann said people involved with the project have been working closely with the ministry of environment since the beginning to make sure it is as environmentally friendly as possible.
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