REPORTING · 24th October 2012
Diana Penner got up at the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine Meeting on Monday, October 19th to speak about the Forceman Ridge Landfill. She was representing the Residents Advocating for a Safe Inclusive Environment.
“I’m here to represent the perception of the community that is around the waste management in the greater Terrace area,” said Penner. She asked the board to bear with her as she reiterated the history of the landfill.
Penner explained in 1989, the Waste Management Act was amended and the Regional District was looking after landfills for many of the small communities. In 1995, the Provincial Guidelines were adjusted so the Regional District was asked to come up with a solid waste strategy. Their goal was to reduce municipal solid waste by the year 2000.
Reports were prepared and the main focus for Thornhill, Terrace and Kitimat was to close the landfills and develop a new site with a 50 year life span. They developed a landfill siting project in 1996 and selected 5 sites on the Onion Flats.
One of those sites became the Forceman Ridge Site. It was investigated and three wells were installed to monitor the groundwater. These were to check the Kitimat River, Onion Lake and a creek.
In 1998, there was public involvement led to an open house which led to further investigation on wildlife. It also determined a survey of Terrace residents needed to be conducted. The respondents said they were ok with the existing landfills, they wanted more recycling and composting opportunities and they did not want any fees.
The landfill was tabled for further information. Reports were put together in 2002 for many of the related groups. These were the Regional District, the First Nations, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Airport Society, the Cities of Kitimat and Terrace, BC Hydro, Natural Gas, The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Highways and Parks.
It was determined the site was not suitable so a new site was selected in 2002. This new site was located on the Shish Creek logging road. They based the need for the landfill on a projection of 1% increase to Terrace’s population.
Penner pointed out there were changes in the communities. Kitimat no longer supported the closure of their landfill and population of Terrace and Thornhill will surpass the projection of 1% per year. She then presented the public perception of this project.
“The Forceman Ridge site is across the highway from Onion Lake. It is across the highway from the Onion Lake Ski Trails. It is the Neighbour to the Rock Climbing Walls. It is the Neighbour to tobogganing hills and hiking trails. It is uphill of our Provincial Park. It is uphill from wetlands. It is in very close proximity to both Lakelse and the Clearwater Lakes. It is very close to the fishing rivers and the creeks. It is at an unsafe highway intersection for garbage disposal trucks,” said Penner.
She said a petition signed by 700 community members opposed the location of the site. A referendum was called for as well. Public consultation took place in Thornhill. However, the information on how the groundwater from the landfill would flow into the Clearwater lakes and then into Lakelse was missing from the presentation. People are concerned about groundwater flow.
Penner said there were a lot of concerns from the public about this project. She pointed out the distance from the communities of Terrace and Thornhill would have increased costs for garbage pick-up. There will be increased fuel and maintenance costs for the garbage trucks and all the other vehicles needed to operate the site.
She pointed out the turn off would be dangerous as it is the first location to get black ice in the wintertime, snow and the industrial corridor is already busy. She pointed out the Thornhill site was a better location.
Penner stated the Forceman Ridge would put the garbage both out of site and out of mind because it will not be visible. The Ridge would also introduce new opportunities for contamination of the surrounding environment. There are concerns about wildlife at the Forceman Ridge; the impact will not be identifiable until the site is operational.
She stated the impact on recreation is the largest concern. The Thornhill site is not near recreation sites. However, Forceman Ridge site is close to a camp site, ski trails and hiking trails. It is also too close to the rivers and the lakes.
“Pressure from the Ministry of Environment is to close the Thornhill and the Terrace landfill sites and open Forceman. We do not believe it is a good enough reason to go ahead too quickly,” said Penner.
She said there could be leaching into Thornhill creek and will need to be addressed. However, leaching will need to be addressed regardless of closure.
She offered several solutions: Make Thornhill sustainable, Reduce pollution risk by working with what is already damaged, open a full recycling centre, educate alternatives, support local products, create home based initiatives or model composting.
“The Pristine Environment of the Region is what makes this community unique. It’s why so many of us are here. Protection of the resources is key to Regional District success as far as we can see, both economically and socially and also sustainably. Issues like the solid waste management plan directly impact on environment and our social consciousness,” concluded Penner.
She suggested the topic go to referendum.
Under questions, Director Linda Pierre stated the Ministry of the Environment told them they could not continue with this site in the current solid waste management plan. This was change, and people were uncomfortable with changes around them. Penner said the public wanted to meet with the Ministry of Environment. Pierre simply replied the Ministry has some very convincing studies.
Director Doug McLeod stated he was pleased with Penner’s presentation.
Later in the meeting, Forceman Ridge came up a second time. Director Doug McLeod provided a report on the Forceman Ridge Landfill site. In the report, he states the project was not generated by public demand, but by Provincial and Local Government. The public are being kept out of the process.
McLeod suggested Alternate Approval Process, which means electors have 44 days to express their opinion on the project and if 10% want a referendum, the project goes to referendum. McLeod made his motion.
Bob Marcellin Expressed they would have to figure out what the elector base is and find out what 10% of them are. This is difficult because there are resident electors and non-resident electors and a voters list which does not come close to the truth. In addition, a referendum would cost $10,000 - $15,000.
Director Corinne Scott pointed out the method was to gauge public opinion. The initial cost is in advertising in the Newspaper. She suggested including a response form in the ad. She was told there was more to it than this ad. They need to create a response form.
She was told no. Only electors could get the ballot. Scott pointed out all the things Electors had to supply and it a letter comes in with all the blanks filled out, they have their answer. She was told this was not the case as this is a complicated process.
One of the Directors pointed out a newspaper form would have to be certified. The forms would come from five electoral areas, two municipalities and the Regional District need to know if people are voters in the area. It makes it difficult to justify or verify. It was pointed out there were six electoral areas and one does not participate in the Landfill.
Bob Marcellin said this isn’t a controversial item because the 10% would become critical. Pierre stated once facts became known, there would be little opposition as the people who oppose this landfill would start to support it.
“You have a potential bias towards people who have activist needs. You are talking about getting an assessment of overall public opinion; this could be biased by virtue that you are putting something in your paper, the people who feel most strongly, be it in favour or in opposition are going to respond to that call for electoral advice,” said Director Bruce Bidgood.
He suggested putting on an electoral ballot. In the case suggested, the Regional District will get a skewed opinion in the results as the silent majority will not provide an answer. He also suggested public consultation prior to putting it on a ballot.
It was pointed out there is no local newspapers, radio and television in many of the electoral areas so it would be hard to get the information out to the public.
McLeod said the Regional District has done things which greater expenses then this, notably lawyer fees. There was a public meeting about the landfill but there was no poll taken other than the one he took at the door. Five people were in favour, the rest opposed.
He said they have to be consensual with what the public agrees they should do. He expressed he wanted to ask the public for their opinion and though this might be difficult for the administration, he felt they could do it. Despite his applause from the audience, the motion to consult the public through an alternate method was defeated.
Scott wanted to know if this was a weighted vote. However, the meeting continued.
Comment by CEM on 18th December 2012
I realize the concern about Foreman Ridge and leaching into Lakelse but if a new enviromentally landfill would be better than what Kitimat landfill has right now. Just look at Google Earth and see how close the dump is to Ozard Creek, Hirsch Creek which then flows into the Kitimat River. Has there been well testing been done there ? I would like to know.
Forceman Ridge does need public input''
Comment by Larry Walker on 24th October 2012
Since this item has been kicking around since 1989 or 1995 (close to some 20 odd years depending on how you look at it)......why not just table it until the next municipal election and add it as a referendum item. This way all the Board's preceived problems with validation are now addressed.
Also I would sure like to know what the Haisla's position is on this....(I phoned their fisheries guy twice in the last month or so and still have not received a call back) I can only assume they don't give a hoot.