I was pleased to read that our only political representative for Lakelse Lake, Kitimat- Stikine Regional Regional Director and Area C representative Doug McLeod, defend the over 700 signature citizen’s petition opposing the location of a new landfill at Forceman Ridge.
This proposed landfill by the regional district directly across from Onion Lake, with potential environmental risk to the Lakelse Lake watershed, has alarmed citizens throughout the northwest.
The petition conducted last November during a one month period was in fact signed by a broad and diverse group of northwest residents, but the regional district dismissed it as simply a disgruntled Lakelse property owners complaint.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I agree with the statements by Mr. McLeod that it is not too late for the public to have their say.
The opposition has not gone away. Only one public open house in May of this year after 14 years of planning In 2006, when new test wells inferred that groundwater from Forceman Ridge was headed toward the Clearwater Lakes within the Lakelse Lake watershed, the Regional District should have explained to the public why this site originally chosen back in 1998 was still viable.
Had they sunk too much money into the proposal already to go back and re-examine it And what kind of pressure was the Ministry of the Environment putting on them to close the Thornhill and Terrace dumps? Is this how we make decisions?
What we know is that the regional district continued to chase the experts and partnered with the BC Ministry of the Environment seeking and gaining the necessary landfill permits.
Any concerns that the regional district-sponsored Lakelse Advisory Planning Commission or the Lakelse Watershed Society had over leachate or the disruption of wildlife patterns, and the loss of habitat, and recreational opportunities could only be posed as submitted questions in advance of regional district-sponsored workshops.
I was a volunteer with both groups at the time, and can say that we applied the best due diligence we could to the volumes of engineering and wildlife reports. Still the greater public was not engaged.
Let’s be clear, landfills are not popular, no one outside of the regional district lobbies for them. But the regional district is required by the province to oversee their development as part of the regional district’s solid waste management plan.
In the end the regional district must convince the public to reduce their garbage, and to this effect their plans to enhance recycling with their zero waste initiative is right on track.
However to have your paper quote Liberal MLA John Rustad, who represented the province at the funding announcement for Terrace’s and Hazelton’s landfills saying that “Having a project come to life after 20 years of planning must have been a relief to the regional district” says nothing about the reality of a very difficult decision that regional district directors find themselves faced with, on whether to approve the final design and implementation of the Forceman Ridge Landfill.
The regional district’s consulting experts believe that the answers to environmental risk lies in monitoring treated leachate amount and flow, and mitigation of the potential disruption to wildlife. But what if the public feels very uneasy about this project?
Even if household waste recyclables are taken out, there is still the issue of industrial waste with its toxic heavy metals, and raw sewage being trucked all the way out to Forceman Ridge, 3 km upstream from the Lakelse Wetlands Provincial Park.
I believe that the regional district has a good engineered model for a landfill. But they have chosen the wrong site.
The Lakelse Lake watershed is a gift. It is enjoyed by all residents of the northwest. Its unique warm shallow water ecosystems and salmon streams are important to the entire province. Why would you want to stick a garbage dump above it?
Is this proposal just another part of the Terrace-Kitimat Industrial Corridor? I believe we have an obligation to screen out potentially bad projects. Give Lakelse representative Doug McLeod your support.
Leslie Rowlands, Prince Rupert, BC