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City buys $10 million landfill ‘thorn’

Owl Road landfill as seen from Juniper.

Owl Road landfill as seen from Juniper. (KAMNews file photo)

‘We don’t need to spend $10 million’

By MIKE YOUDS

All but one city councillor voted in favour Tuesday of borrowing $10 million to buy the Owl Road Landfill, long cast as an environmental pariah in Barnhartvale.

Council authorized a recommendation from staff to borrow the money and establish a resource recovery centre to increase landfill diversion from Mission Flats.

Landfill operator Dan Ambrosi has been negotiating with the City on a deal since 2012. Although talks dissolved in 2014, he approached the City again this year and council decided to proceed with the purchase at a closed meeting.

Public works director Jen Fretz told council that the purchase serves a variety of objectives, including a 10-year extension of the life of Mission Flats landfill, a reduction in emissions of the PM 2.5 — a serious health concern — and elimination of what Mayor Peter Milobar described as “a thorn in the side of some.”

The purchase will also enable the City to control dust and noise issues at the landfill and provide a satellite yard for the public works department, Fretz said.

All reusables collected by City trucks would go to the resource recovery centre. According to staff calculations, that would allow the City to achieve its goal of an increase in landfill diversion of 45 per cent over the next three years.

Currently Mission Flats has a projected lifespan that would take it to sometime between 2047 and 2068. With the greater diversion, the City wouldn’t need to build another landfill until 2078.

Fretz said 70 per cent of the Owl Road landfill area will be seeded with vegetation, thereby controlling dust, and bringing in City water will help as well. Most of the project cost would be funded through tipping fees, avoiding any need for property tax increases.

“We have done a very robust business case,” Fretz said.

The revenue stream would include tipping fees from Owl Road.

Coun. Ken Christian said council challenged staff to find ways of extending the life of Mission Flats and this achieves that goal. He noted that Owl Road has been a significant source of PM 10 particulate in Valleyview and downtown over the last 20 years. Recovering more waste is also an improvement.

Kathy Humphrey, finance director, reassured council that the additional borrowing leaves the City well below its borrowing threshold of $38 million.

Coun. Tina Lange was the sole dissenter.

The City has lobbied the Ministry of Environment to address the harmful dust problem, yet the province maintains Ambrosi was fully compliant with landfill regulations.

“I don’t think the way to cure that is to spend $10 million,” Lange said after the meeting. “There is no reason why a private landfill could not be doing the same job.”

With the recent substantial hikes in landfill fees, Ambrosi has been receiving increased waste. That could change once the City introduces a flat rate for both landfills, she noted.

Lange was not the only councillor dissatisfied with the Ministry of Environment’s reassurances. Coun. Arjun Singh said the City shouldn’t let the province off the hook easily.

“If things do happen… I think we need to go back to the province.”

With approvals, due diligence and loan authorization still in process, the property is expected to change hands in December, Fretz said.

Coun. Pat Wallace said the private landfill predated the City’s presence in the area, creating unfortunate conflicts for the operator.

“We need to remember, we didn’t put it there,” she said.

About Mel Rothenburger (9489 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on City buys $10 million landfill ‘thorn’

  1. So, another 10 million down the drain, and no relief for people nearby from the dust. It’s obvious that this council believes that taxpayers are a bottomless pit of money the way they throw it around. I’m sure that there were other more economical ways to extend the dump life on Mission Flats. This land is now useless, and will stay that way forever now.

  2. “We have done a very robust business case,” Fretz said….
    Ok ….please… let’s see it posted on the City of Kamloops web site…as well as the robust business case for the “Perfroming Arts Centre”

    “I don’t think the way to cure that is to spend $10 million,” Lange said after the meeting. “There is no reason why a private landfill could not be doing the same job.”
    I don’t think there is cure to spend 9 times that amount for a ” Performing Arts Centre” an there is no reason why a private company could not do the same job in successfully operating a ” Performing Arts Centre”

  3. Would you look at that. The city finally cares about pm 10 and 2.5.

    • Johnny Blue Shoes // June 25, 2015 at 10:07 AM // Reply

      Except PM 10 and PM 2.5 aren’t blowing off the owl road dump. Dust particles exist in a range of sizes and the dust we can actually see is larger (much larger) than PM 10 and is classified as Total Suspended Particulate or TSP. This stuff, while visibly unappealing, poses very little health risks as the particles are too large to embed deep in ones lungs and are cleared out via mucus, etc.

      …you’re welcome.

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