The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) is hoping to have a composting program in place by late 2020.
The regional district will be undergoing an analysis over the next couple of years to consider capital and operating costs, as well as different delivery options for an organics diversion program. The analysis will consider a number of questions: will the regional district take on a “phased” approach? Will it focus on residential or commercial collection? Will organic waste be processed at the Alberni Valley Landfill, or transported to another processing plant on the Island? What will the end use of the product be?
The ACRD received $6 million from the federal gas tax fund in February 2018 for organics diversion to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill, and to delay the need for an expensive methane gas capture system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This grant will cover 100 percent of the cost of capital infrastructure, but not the ongoing operating costs, said Rob Williams, general manager of environmental services, during a Wednesday, July 25 board meeting.
The ACRD is subject to this grant timeline, which has a deadline of December 2020, so the hope is to have a project rolling out in spring or summer 2020.
“This is, in my opinion, a bit of an ambitious project plan,” laughed Williams on Wednesday. “It’s going to be a work in progress.”
The regional district currently does not have a standardized curbside program or processing capabilities for a composting issue. The city of Port Alberni recently purchased two trucks with split bodies that can pick up two products at the same time. But the city is only a collection agency—it cannot start collecting without a processing service.
Williams said the ACRD plans to research all the different service delivery options, come back to the board with a refined list and then take those to the community for engagement and feedback.
“Community engagement is going to be a huge piece of this project,” he said. “It needs to be supported by the users to be successful. The public has to be involved with the decision-making on this.”
He is hoping to hold open houses and focus groups, as well as an online or mail-out survey. The ACRD will also be looking into hiring external resources for the project management, which will be supported by the new grant.
One of the biggest concerns, said Williams, is land tenure. The ACRD does not have ownership or long-term tenure of the landfill property—it is held under a series of licences with the province and the Tseshaht First Nation.
“We need to confirm, are we going to have access to that site long term?” Williams wondered out loud on Wednesday.
“That’s going to be our Achilles heel out there,” agreed Cherry Creek director Lucas Banton.
Odour is “the No. 1 issue” with composting, said Williams, so facilities need to be sited in proper locations. It is possible to truck waste material to another facility down Island that already has processing capabilities, he pointed out.
Board chair John Jack said he has spoken to Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, who will take some of the concerns about land tenure to the province and make sure the plan can be executed. “What we’re doing is trying to create a good, proper, working relationship with Tseshaht, and we shouldn’t be punished for taking the time to do that,” said Jack. “We’ll have more information from the province coming.”
The ACRD is hoping to start community engagement by mid-2019.