Thousands of old rubber tires at an abandoned recycling plant on Crown land in Port Alberni have been recycled in the first of a two-phased cleanup.
A tour of the provincially owned site by Tseshaht First Nation and provincial government officials revealed that the tire piles that choked the area last August are for the most part gone.
“It’s such a huge feeling of satisfaction knowing that there has been progress made on this,” Tseshaht chief operating officer Cindy Stern said. “And we’re encouraged that the commitment is there to continue the work.”
More than 4,200 tires deemed recyclable were carted away to Island Tire Recycling in Chemainus where they will be chipped and sold to Catalyst Paper Corp’s Port Alberni operation as hog fuel. Approximately 200 more are expected to be extracted and recycled during phase two.
There are approximately 1,300 tires that aren’t recyclable because of their size and steel content so they’ll be left on the site. Phase two of the project will see them used to construct a berm covered by dirt that will ring the four- hectare site, Ministry of Forests and Lands spokesperson Myles Mana said.
A third class of medium-size tires also isn’t recyclable, and will soon be made available to the public for small projects.
A stand of small alder trees was also cut down, chipped, and sold to Catalyst.
The province picked up $25,000 of the $75,000 tab to complete the first phase of the project while Tire Stewardship BC paid the balance.
Phase two is expected to cost approximately $100,000, Mana said. A request for proposals is being drawn up with work is expected to be completed in late spring, he added.
“For the cleanup of this scale that is pretty good value for the dollar,” he said.
The facility was created in the 1990s. The property is the responsibility of the Ministry of Forest and Lands but cleanup was the responsibility of the former leaseholder, who no one was able to track down.
The plant sat abandoned for 20 years before it was dealt with. According to Mana, the sheer size of the cleanup and lack of facilities with the technology and capacity to deal with it was the chief reason why. The province was working on a plan to deal with it, Mana said.
Those plans were fast-tracked after Tseshaht Chief Councillor Hugh Braker brought the issue to public light last summer, Mana said.
Tire Stewardship BC became involved in the issue after reading news stories about the site in August. The organization’s provincial mandate is to deal with all tires that can be recycled and safely disposed of in B.C., executive director Mike Hennesy said. “I’ve never seen a site like that one,” he said.
One of the chief concerns about the site was the potential for pollution from the tires. A University of Alberta professor alleviated those concerns with studies he’d done on the subject. “Even if tires are under water the leeching is minimal, and above the water there is virtually nothing,” Mana said.
The next step after the project is completed is what will be done with the site, which is zoned for heavy industrial use by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
A provincial spokesperson said that an RFP will be drawn up and offers solicited groups with an interest.
Tseshaht members previously considered using the site to stored equipment from their logging business and using the building as a shop, or even using it as a dryland sort. The tribe has a land notification on the site indicating an interest for economic development use.
The Alberni Clayoquot Regional District landfill sits adjacent to the plant, but there aren’t any plans to expand, for now. “The ACRD presently doesn’t have an interest in either expanding the landfill beyond its current footprint or in the tire dump site,” chief administrative officer Russell Dyson said.