New dump site a bad idea

Every alternative to putting in another landfill should come first.

An open letter to:

The City of Terrace, the Kitimat-Stikine regional district, First Nations governments, and fellow Terrace and area residents

Dear All:

I’d heard rumours about plans to build a dump near Lakelse Lake, but I thought the talk was silliness. Who would put a dump in one of our region’s most precious watersheds?

Then I saw the petition regarding the prevention of the Forcman Ridge Landfill and thought, “Good grief—it’s real?” And then I read Lauren Benn’s enlightening article, “Not in our backyard” (Terrace Standard, December 21, 2011). I think the exact words I muttered midway through were, “Are you kidding me?”

That idea that a detailed design for the Forceman Ridge Landfill is needed before it can be known whether “there is or isn’t (going to be) an effect on the lake” is ridiculous. Of course there will be an effect.

We already know the groundwater does not flow south as previously thought. The site’s groundwater route will flow in to the Clearwater lakes and then into Lakelse—if not directly, then every time the ground is saturated. There will be the stink of trash in the air.

Our tourist-attracting, natural treasures—the provincial parks along Lakelse—will be negatively impacted. There will be cries of outrage and hands thrown up in the air by the officials who voted it in: “But we didn’t know.” “We had no inkling.” “The studies (that we didn’t do, only half-did, didn’t listen to) didn’t tell us.”

I can’t help but feel the decision to move ahead with a plan that the public has been told so little about is just another step in saying the decision has already been made, regardless of what preliminary studies and plain common sense show us. If enough money is sunk into the site ahead of time, area residents (and future voting councillors) will feel forced to roll over no matter what further environmental studies show. (“All that money was spent, there’s no money for any other spot, we’d better suck it up.”)

Another flaw in the “going ahead so that we can decide if we should be going ahead” argument centres around the notion that paying for the development of a detailed plan is somehow tied to the development of a “community communication strategy” and to the regional district’s future “solid waste plans—including long-term landfilling plans, transfer stations, curbside collection, waste diversion initiatives and cost recovery.”

I’m afraid people will hear about the City of Terrace’s plan “to develop a community communication strategy” being linked to the design plan and think, Oh, good, we’re going to be communicated with before they ever put in a dump by our lake. Don’t fall for it. The dump will go in and we’ll all receive a “Isn’t it wonderful?” brochure in mail.

Communicating to the community should have come first, and since that didn’t happen, the new time is now. Developing area strategies to put less in landfill are past due and initiating changes (less garbage on the curb, a City of Terrace recycling program with curbside colleciton, an end to the archaic “No salvaging” rules at Thornhill and Terrace dump, to just name a few) should not be tied to development of Forceman Ridge—they should be put in place now.

We have a small population, yet we’ve already filled two dumpsites to capacity, destroying two huge areas of land permanently. We don’t need another dump. We need another way of taking care of waste. Every alternative to putting in another landfill should come first.

Why can’t we work to decrease the fill in one of the existing sites and modernize one of them to become a transfer station—transferring garbage that can’t be reused or recycled to a regional landfill that is not in the heart of our lake’s watershed? (Could we partner with Bulkley-Nechako and perhaps use their Clearview site’s, for example?)

I understand there are money concerns, but long-term costs are more important considerations. And if we think managing waste is expensive now? Consider the financial and environmental price tags attached to trying to halt or reverse the inevitable damage that a landfill site on Forceman Ridge would do.

I’m calling on the City of Terrace, the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and our First Nations governments to avoid a mistake that will plague generations to come.

And I’m calling on Terrace and area residents: let’s make our voices heard about this issue now.

We don’t need millions of dollars in studies to know that a garbage dump on Forceman Ridge, in the middle of Lakelse’s watershed, a terrible idea.

Ev Bishop, Terrace, BC