Photo courtesy of the Comox Strathcona Waste Management web page
New North Island organics processing facility raises concerns about cost, fire and odours
The Comox Valley Waste Management Board is building a Compost Facility in Campbell River to process residential curbside organics (residential food and yard waste). The Campbell River Environmental Committee (CREC) and residents have concerns regarding the choice of location and the possible risks related to the composting process.
One concern is the cost.
In 2017 the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) was awarded a grant from the New Building Canada Fund to construct the regional organics composting facility. At the time, the capital project cost estimate was $8.48 million for processing an estimated 12,875 tonnes/year.
With the latest Sept. 9, 2021 amendment, the facility will process 14,500 tonnes/per year of organics at a revised construction cost of $17.3 million.
The most recent budget increase required the shortfall of $2.18 million be redirected from the CVRD’s Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board funding for the Pigeon Lake Landfill Cell 2 project, a shift from capital works reserve to a new debt.
In other words, money allocated to expanding the Comox Valley landfill will be used to build the new compost facility and the landfill expansion will now require over $2 million of debt to be completed.
The second concern is odour.
Compost odour was recognizable at a distance 800 metres downwind from compost facilities, as reported by the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health in an article titled “Odour from a Compost Facility.”
The frightening part is emissions from composting facilities typically belong to Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) including the carcinogens benzene and toluene.
An analysis done by the CVRD’s consultant for this project (Jacobs Engineering Group), reports the facility will be “approximately 100 metres away” from the nearest residence.
This is not an acceptable setback and there is the potential for human harm from emissions. In many communities, there are common and unresolved foul odour complaints regarding composting facilities.
Thirdly, fire is an issue.
The location for this Campbell River facility is a heavily forested area, and there is no municipal water supply or fire hydrants, raising the question of how to adequately handle a fire.
Leachate from the Campbell River Landfill that continues to be observed in groundwater is an ongoing concern to residential wells in the area. Also, is leachate-impacted well water really an appropriate source for compost processes or fire fighting?
The CVRD has been quick to assure the concerned members of CREC and the public of their confidence in this project. However, the record of the Campbell River Waste Management Centre demonstrates a long history of non-compliance across multiple authorities.
One would hope that every facility of this nature starts out with the best intentions. We have seen time and time again – near and far – the negative effects these facilities have on the environment and people surrounding them.
This article was submitted by the Campbell River Environmental Committee
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What George didn’t mention in his story is that hundreds of tons of kitchen waste from the Comox Valley is slated to be trucked daily from Comox Valley to Campbell River, generating a significant amount of CO2 emissions from transportation. Is this a “green” solution?
At this time two years ago, before the the approval of the Comox-Strathcona composing facility, I proposed the following to several of our local councilors involved with the decision:
1. Feed residential wastewater along with solid organic waste from a variety of sources (e.g., residential kitchen scraps, waste from local grocery stores, restaurants, agri-food businesses, plant waste from a local cannabis greenhouse, manure from local dairy farms and fish waste from local fish processing plants) into an anaerobic digester located at the liquid waste treatment plant. (By the way, anaerobic plants release no odors.)
2. Products from the anaerobic digester include heat, sludge, water, CO2, and bio-methane.
3. Build a cannabis greenhouse at the wastewater treatment plant site. The greenhouse will be leased to a large cannabis grower (e.g., Aurora Cannabis). Revenue from rental of the facility will help pay for its operation.
4. Separate the CO2 from the methane and feed it into the greenhouse to enhance plant growth and sequester CO2. Multiple greenhouses in Delta, BC are already doing this.
5. Use waste heat from the anaerobic digester along with some of the renewable natural gas to heat the greenhouse during the winter months. Feed any surplus biogas into the Fortis BC grid. (Fortis BC is currently purchasing biogas from the Comox Valley landfill.)
6. Generate electricity using a methane fuel cell for the LED lighting in the greenhouse.
7. Sell any biogas not used by the greenhouse through Fortis BC’s renewable gas program to CV residents at a preferred rate.
8. Grow the medical cannabis plants hydroponically using treated water from the digester as well as the fuel cells.
9. Dewater the sludge and sell nutrient rich soil to local residents and farmers (currently being done).
I wish this were my idea! In fact, a similar system was created in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec with funding courtesy of the federal government. Check out “Case study: How Saint-Hyacinthe turns organic waste into biogas and revenue.”
My wife and I recently signed up to the Fortis BC biogas program. We now pay $12/gigajoule for biogas instead of $4/gigajoule for drilled gas. It’s worth it! We can turn on our natural gas fireplace this Christmas knowing that we are reducing the amount of methane from cow manure entering the atmosphere. (Methane is 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.)
excellent synopsis & positive action items – send that to the Councils & Waste Commissions