Renovation projects could get costly in South Okanagan

Sending demolition waste to regional landfills will soon become more expensive for homeowners who don’t have it certified as free of hazardous materials like asbestos.  - Western News file photo
Sending demolition waste to regional landfills will soon become more expensive for homeowners who don’t have it certified as free of hazardous materials like asbestos.
— image credit: Western News file photo

Big renovation and demolition projects will soon become more expensive for people who send potentially hazardous debris to some local landfills, and following the letter of the law won’t be cheap either.

Right now, the cost of tipping a 10-tonne load of mixed demolition waste at the Campbell Mountain Landfill in Penticton is $5,000. That will increase to $6,750 on May 1 under the terms of a new tipping-fee structure designed to protect works and encourage recycling.

That same load will cost only $4,840 if the house from which it came was professionally assessed for hazardous materials, like asbestos and lead, and had any such products removed.

The price will drop to just $1,945 if assessed debris is trucked to the Okanagan Falls landfill, where a new sorting facility that will pull out materials for recycling will open later this spring, and the cost can be cut even further by dividing loads into individual waste streams.

“If builders and homeowners are diligent and separating their debris — drywall and wood and things like that – it’s actually not going to be that onerous,” said Mike Brar, president of the South Okanagan branch of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

“It’s actually a good reason for the increase,” he continued.

“The assessment is only for the protection of the general public as well as any workers that happen to deal with that debris.”

RDOS solid waste management co-ordinator Cameron Baughen noted contractors and homeowners will need to have their environmental consultants send proof of hazard assessments and necessary remediation work to his organization in advance in order to unlock the lower tipping fees.

WorkSafeBC regulations require any building set for demolition or renovation that may contain hazardous materials first be assessed and tested by a qualified firm, and that any such products be removed before work starts. Guidelines produced by WorkSafeBC acknowledge the risk of finding asbestos is reduced in homes built after 1990.

“We’re just really catching up now with the requirements for the construction-demolition industry,” Baughen said.

He noted people who are willing to pay extra can continue dumping mixed, non-assessed waste, but they will pay a premium for taking up space in landfills where debris is “buried forever.”

WorkSafeBC regulations don’t apply to homeowners undertaking work themselves and the per-tonne cost for mixed loads under the 500-kilogram mark has been set lower to avoid penalizing people doing small renovations for whom the cost of a hazardous material assessment is too much.

Assessments usually cost between $950 and $1,550, according to Steve Ferguson, owner of Peak Environmental, one of four such firms registered with the RDOS.

Hiring professionals to then remove the offending products from a typical house costs from $8,000 to $10,000, he continued, although the amount of hazardous materials in homes varies greatly.

“You could have some buildings built in the 1940s that really have no asbestos at all, and there are other ones that are built from the early 1960s to the late 1970s that are basically made with asbestos,” Ferguson explained.

He suggested anyone buying an older dwelling consider having a hazardous material assessment done alongside a routine pre-purchase home inspection.

Besides implementing split fees for mixed demolition debris, the RDOS is also increasing the cost to dump regular household waste by $23 to  $95 per tonne, partly to offset declining revenue being lost to recycling. Tipping fees for some other waste streams, such as drywall and concrete, will be reduced from $50 to $20 per tonne since those materials can be recycled or used for road-building at the landfills.

The new fee structure, combined with the Okanagan Falls sorting facility, is expected to divert upwards of 5,000 tonnes from local landfills each year, according to an estimate contained in the RDOS’s solid waste management plan.

Baughen said he’s in communication with operators of municipal landfills, like the one in Summerland that charges a flat rate of $65 per tonne, to come up with strategies to prevent people from shopping their waste.


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