Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District directors are pushing back on what they are calling a “science fair experiment” at the area’s largest landfill.
The Campbell Mountain Landfill, which disposes of garbage from Penticton, Keremeos and five regional district areas is not compliant with provincial regulations to collect methane gas which could eventually result in hefty fines.
Last Thursday, directors heard it could cost more than $40 million in upgrades over the lifespan of the landfill. However, the upgrades have the potential to cause a fire where residents could breathe in toxic fumes.
Lisa Bloomfield, engineering supervisor for the RDOS explained the province’s preferred method of methane collection of using a straw like apparatus to suck the gas, works in many landfills throughout B.C., but is not likely to work at Campbell Mountain Landfill.
“The landfill site sits on fractured bedrock that allows air in. We don’t know what gasses are doing down there and there is no base liner,” she said.
The fractured bedrock would allow air to come in the bottom while the gas was being sucked out the top. Hot spots could develop in the landfill and cause a fire. Bloomfield said landfill fires can take years to extinguish and cost between $20,000 to $50,000 a day to fight.
Regulations to capture methane gas, caused by decaying garbage, were updated by the province in 2009. It includes a requirement of any landfill that creates 1,200 tonnes of methane each year to put in a gas capture system.
The RDOS hired Sperling Hansen Associates for almost $230,000 to do a design operation and closure plan in 2015. It was discovered the Campbell Mountain Landfill, on average, creates about 550 tonnes of methane gas annually.
“You need water to create methane gas. Climate is a really big thing. It’s so dry here so we don’t really fit into their model,” said Bloomfield.
However the regulations still apply.
Since 2009, RDOS staff have kept discussions open with the province about creating an alternate plan to deal with the gas using a biocover.
The biocover would be made of a mixture of City of Penticton biosolids and Iona Island biosolids provided by Metro Vancouver. The biosolids would breakdown the majority of the methane into carbon dioxide and water elements.
An issue of non-compliance was received by the RDOS on Aug. 24 along with criteria that would need to be met to go ahead with the alternate plan application.
The criteria outlined four plots, 30 metres by 30 metres, would need to be developed along with data outlining how much methane was recorded for at least one year.
Three of the plots would use different variations of the materials used in the biocover and one using the province’s method of sucking the gas in the active gas collection.
The three biocover plots were already part of the design and operation closure plan. The additional plot monitoring could cost up to $175,000 in additional funds and has the potential to cause a fire.
“This is really science fair experiment stuff,” Michael Brydon, Area F director said. “For us to do a test plot to compare their science with ours is completely misguided. If they’re asking us to test what we want to do and prove we can achieve their numbers that’s one thing, but to compare it to theirs and foot the bill … that’s something they should be doing the research on themselves.”
All the directors agreed unanimously with Brydon and voted down allowing funding for the additional test site.
The RDOS hopes to bring the issue to the floor at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention (Sept. 26 to 30), as other areas in the province will be in the same dilemma, and to the ministry directly.