THE AREA’S two local governments need to move quickly to build a regional dump or face significant costs to fix up the ones they operate now, the provincial government has warned.
In a letter sent to the Kitimat Stikine regional district, a provincial environment official says the new dump, to be located roughly half-way between Terrace and Kitimat in a location known as Forceman Ridge needs to be open by 2015.
“Although the [environment] ministry has authorized the continued discharge of waste at the Thornhill landfill up to this point, landfilling on a long-term basis will not be authorized without significant upgrades being undertaken,” said Eric Pierce.
He added that the City of Terrace could expect to receive a similar letter concerning its dump and also urging it to get on with the Forceman Ridge project.
“It is our hopes that the Forceman Ridge project moves ahead in a timely manner in order to avoid any further risk to the receiving environment [close] to both the Thornhill and Terrace landfills,” Pierce continued.
Both the city and regional district dumps are considered to be over-capacity and not up to current environmental standards.
Both sites also concern the environment ministry because they are close to bodies of water – the Kalum River, and the Thornhill Creek.
“The planned closure of both the Terrace and Thornhill sites are long overdue,” wrote Pierce, pointing to public and First Nations participation and extensive technical work done in preparation of the Forceman Ridge landfill site as having taken much longer than expected.
Any major improvements to the current Thornhill and Terrace dumps would also require the same type of work that was done in preparation for Forceman Ridge and that would cost taxpayers yet more money.
The upgrades would include expanding each landfill’s footprint, and collecting lechate and treating it. Garbage has somewhat of a tea-bag effect on water, and the water product of mixing the two is called leachate.
Leachate isn’t treated at either Terrace or Thornhill’s landfills before running into the ground and surrounding bodies of water.
And should Forceman Ridge not be open by 2015, the ministry would require an environmental monitoring program to be put in place at the Thornhill dump, involving researching if any other environmental damage is happening due to leachate and how to reduce or stop it.
For the sites to continue past then, it would also need to be put in writing that there is wastewater flowing into the ground, said the letter.
Despite recent protests from people concerned about Forceman Ridge’s location within the Lakelse watershed, the environment ministry is satisfied with the location and work plan.
“The project, as proposed, meets and exceeds the municipal landfill criteria,” said Pierce.
“It is unlikely that any other location in the area would exhibit such good conditions for a landfill.”
To date, an estimated $800,000 has been spent sourcing, researching and developing a plan for the Forceman Ridge site, says regional district official Roger Tooms.
“We could expect that number to be similar,” said Tooms of environmentally upgrading the Thornhill landfill site.
But just because the ministry has delivered an ultimatum regarding Forceman Ridge, it doesn’t mean there’s pressure to start work, said Tooms.
“I can tell you that Forceman Ridge is not a done deal,” he continued. “Our board is still considering whether or not to pursue that facility.”
“We know that this is a very sensitive project that requires a thorough process and review careful consideration.”
The regional district, which bears the responsibility of developing the regional landfill, is preparing a detailed design plan for the Forceman Ridge site.
The plan, which involves an environmental effects monitoring program, will be submitted to the province before any final site approval is made, said Tooms.
In the meantime, an expansion of the Thornhill dump location is planned.
“We have to look at a small expansion for the Thornhill landfill just to continue to serve the current service area,” said Tooms.
“You always have to proceed carefully with an expansion.
“We don’t treat the leachate, and we’re not adding any treatment for this next small expansion.”
“Right now we’re not seeing any significant measurable impacts on Thornhill Creek,” said Tooms. “But are we concerned for Thornhill Creek? Absolutely.”
Tooms added that most of the area is within or nearby a watershed regardless, making almost every local site or possible site sensitive and deserving of careful planning, monitoring and consideration.
City of Terrace public works director Herb Dusdal said the city hasn’t yet received a letter directly from the province specific to its site north of town on Hwy113.
He said the city is looking forward to the opening of Forceman Ridge.
Leachate at the city dump is gathered in a pond where it is exposed to air as a form of treatment before trickling into surrounding wetlands.