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Ratepayers bring composting site opposition to qathet Regional District board

Townsite should not be used for organics facility, society directors say
COMPOSTING CONTROVERSY: Townsite Ratepayers Society is opposed to use of lands adjacent to the Catalyst Paper Corporation mill for organics processing.

After presenting to City of Powell River, Townsite Ratepayers Society has approached qathet Regional District (qRD), expressing opposition to a planned composting facility in Townsite.

At the February 25 regional board meeting, directors heard a presentation from ratepayers society president Diana Collicutt, and past-president Stephen Miller, indicating they are adamantly opposed to a recently announced composting facility on waterfront lands in the middle of the Townsite neighbourhood and near to residences. Provincial and federal governments recently announced two-thirds funding for a $1.15 million composting facility on land adjacent to the Catalyst paper mill site in Townsite, to be operated by Tla’amin Nation.

Collicutt mentioned that the regional district also has a request for proposals (RFP) for an organics facility, and said the ratepayers understand a decision on the RFP has not been made, but will be made soon.

“According to the RFP, the regional district will consider proposals for the facility at a certain location provided the proposed location is socially and environmentally appropriate in the district’s opinion,” said Collicutt. “There can be serious odour issues and emissions of contaminants dangerous to public health and there will be real social and environmental consequences if a compost facility is located in our neighbourhood.

“The closer these facilities are to residences, schools, hotels, restaurants, public parks and commercial areas, best practices are to install more advanced technology and design to manage odours and capture emissions. The Environmental Management Act gives authority to local governments to regulate air quality and solid waste management.”

Collicutt asked what government regulations, technology design standards and odour management plans the regional district will put in place to protect the environment and public health of residents.

Miller said at some point around 2017 a series of events took place and the taxpayer was not consulted. He said the old mill lands were split up and the city chose to place a consolidated wastewater treatment plant on 20 acres. He said Tla’amin ended up with 3.5 acres, most likely eliminating any authority the city would have over the use of this land.

“At some point, the Tla’amin Nation put in an application for funding from the federal and provincial governments to build a composting plant on their piece of land to manufacture agricultural product,” said Miller. “This grant was recently announced.”

Miller said if qRD really cares about Townsite and doesn’t consider it a dumping ground for all dirty industry, it could take a proactive stance in protecting the neighbourhood and residents’ investments.

“The qathet Regional District could start out by saying that they will not allow or participate in any composting facility in Townsite,” said Miller.

Board chair unaware of composting proposal

Regional board chair Patrick Brabazon said the regional board was not aware of any proposal for a composting site in Townsite.

“A request for proposals went out,” said Brabazon. “I know our staff have received proposals. I know there is a committee of staff and others working over the proposals, and eventually, a report is going to come to the board. Until that report hits the board, we have no idea what these proposals are.

“The board is in no position to engage in a discussion about siting because we don’t know what the proposed site is going to be.”

Collicutt said the ratepayers wanted to make its presentation now because they felt it was timely to put forward the ratepayers’ position.

Brabazon said the regional board was as surprised as the ratepayers when the province and federal government came out with its announcement about a composting facility in Townsite.

Miller said it is the ratepayers’ hope to be proactive and be part of a solution that is good for everyone in the qathet region.

Brabazon said regional directors will have to wait to see what hits their desks with results of the evaluation of RFP proposals.

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