New North Island organics processing facility raises concerns about cost, fire and odours

New North Island organics processing facility raises concerns about cost, fire and odours

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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