Landfill plan may be world class, but ….

The location for Terrace area landfill is still in the wrong place

Dear Sir:

Regarding the guest comment on the Forceman Ridge landfill proposal by Mr. Brad North in The Terrace Standard of Feb. 20, 2013.

As a follow-up to Mr. North’s justifiable faith in qualified professionals, there are examples regarding the proposed regional landfill at Forceman Ridge, (formerly known as Onion Lake – East) that may not be widely known.

  • In April, 2002, after the installation of 6 wells, RDKS applied for an operating permit and land tenure based on a data package prepared by the principal consultant. This package was sent to 20 government and other agencies including DFO and BC Parks. The package mentioned Onion Lake and Lakelse Lake as major surface water bodies near the site and said that inferred groundwater flow direction was calculated to be south, away from these potential receiving bodies.

  • In a January 2006 project summary, the same consultant said that the existing landfills were having minimal, if any, impact on the Kitsumkalum River and Thornhill Creek.

  • In a September 2007 report, new wells at Forceman suggested that the groundwater flow was likely headed directly to Clearwater Lakes.

  • In August 2008, a review by a division of the Ministry of Environment requested that RDKS consider the aquifer underlying the site as a valued resource. This review also suggests that surface – groundwater interactions are monitored over a full 12 months as a condition of an operating permit. Strangely, the Ministry of Environment issued the permit within 3 months.

  • In May 2009, a review by an independent hydrologist pointed out that determining groundwater flow is a mix of art and science and that if groundwater is polluted it could be very difficult to remediate. He also added that pollution prevention should be the priority.

  • In December 2009, after wells # 13 and 14 were installed, the RDKS hydrogeologist concluded that flow from the site appeared to be directed to Clearwater Lakes, producing the very same flow diagram as in October 2006.

  • At a workshop in June 2011, the travel time for liquid at the site to sink down to the groundwater level was said to be 1 to 3 years. This prompted the question as to how soon could a defect in the liner at start-up be detected and the answer was the same: 1 to 3 years.

  • In September 2011, it was confirmed that the average discharge of effluent from the treatment ponds would be 250,000 litres per day.

Few would argue that the landfill doesn’t have the makings of a world class design, but the site can hardly be classed as anything other than extremely unwise if you’re not willing to carry out a risk analysis or figure out the remediation costs of a liner defect given a possible 1 to 3 year delay.

By contrast, the natural clay lined sites of the Terrace and Thornhill landfills allow you to measure precisely how well you are treating your effluent.

Then there is the more than double precipitation estimated for the same area by the same consultant firm in a study spanning the years 1954 to 1992 but which RDKS dismisses as a rumour in its anonymous answers to questions raised at the May 2012 open house.

So, if it’s not about the design or the integrity of the designers, what exactly is the problem?

Could it be an inappropriate site, dictated by Forestry before the first wells were installed in 1997, or could it simply be that the public were given no chance to understand the proposal, or form any opinion in the silence between the “Terrace and Area Subregional Landfill” open house of 1998 and the bewildering technical onslaught of the one in 2012.

What Mr. North may not know is that an advisory committee appointed by RDKS was provided with around 700 pages of selected background information on the Forceman proposal in January 2011. Two months later this committee unanimously recommended to the board that the proposal be put on hold pending an independent third party review. RDKS did not respond and three members of this committee subsequently resigned. It should not be up to a group of volunteers to try to assess the wisdom of bring the region’s garbage to the region’s recreational gem. A state of the art proposal should not be afraid of a state of the art review.

Land tenure for the Forceman site was announced by RDKS in October 2011 but at that time neither DFO nor BC Parks had been informed about the change in groundwater flow to the Lakelse watershed.

Worse still is being informed by someone from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources that “RDKS has records of a public meeting held on June 24, 20011.”

Having attended that all-day meeting I know that it was anything but a public meeting. I suppose the bigger question now is: where is the decision making process that the Supreme Court of Canada tells us is transparent, accessible to the public and mandated by law?

Ian Maxwell,

Terrace, B.C.