Citizens taking action ~ Vancouver, Lower Mainland, and beyond.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Can Christina Lake douse plans for a waste incinerator?

The 1600 winter residents of the Christina Lake vacation area in BC's Kootenay Boundary region are scrambling to block regional district approval of a new hazardous waste incinerator in their community.

According to a recent article in the Globe & Mail, the project was proposed last fall just after the thousands of summer residents had vacated their seasonal property. The year-round residents are hoping to put the proposal to a public vote so absentee landowners would be able to weigh in on the decision.

The facility proponent is a Vancouver based company, Aquilini Renewable Energy, which spawned by the Aquilini Investment Group. They are seeking to pull land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve to burn petroleum industry waste from as far away as California.

Aquilini company president John Negrin says the company is "keenly focused to provide a solution to the world's energy needs ..."
Negrin's company is a member of the Canadian Energy From Waste Coalition, which has a seat at the table of the Working Group convened by the provincial environment ministry to discuss the future of waste in BC. (This is the same Working Group that Zero Waste Vancouver and the Sierra Club of BC were "disinvited" from earlier this winter.). Small, interconnected world.
Local residents have put up a community website with a petition that has already drawn over 1200 signatures.


Anonymous said...

I'm really tired of seeing everyone up in a panic over this plant, so I'm going to see if I can't get a little bit of the truth out there. It's a long comment, but its worth the read if you're worried about this subject. I assure you, you'll be better informed because of it.

First of all, it's not taking nuclear sludge and dumping it in the lake for Pete's sakes, so everyone needs to take a deep breath, and remember how to breathe and think. Then, when you’re ready to hear why a select few of us are in favor of this report, so you can a) respond intelligently to my comments with some comments of your own, or b) change your opinion on the subject, or c) walk away with at least the satisfaction of hearing both sides before joining one, then please continue reading.

Now, we'll start with the basics. This "toxic" waste plant, is indeed dealing with what is scientifically described as hazardous or toxic waste. However, we need to remember what that means to a scientific community. In layman's terms, it's basically any substance that can cause bodily harm if you ingest it, rub it on yourself, or breathe it in. If I decided to stick my head into a tub of water and breath in, water is a toxic/hazardous waste since it would kill me. However if I went around saying that, you’d all think I was pretty silly, clinically insane, just plain stupid, or all of the above.

Now, I want you to think about all the things in your home every day that you consider perfectly safe, that are scientifically "toxic" and being dealt with at this plant. Things include: paint(was it worth an uproar when it was on your paintbrush? But when it's packed in a barrel, suddenly it's doomsday in a bucket.) How about the interior of your car? Was that also the end of the world when you were sitting on it? Did your pants melt off? I didn't think so. The list goes on and on. They are simply common petroleum products, which need to be recycled. If you saw them sitting in your home or especially the house 5 minutes away out of the city (like where the “toxic” plant is being built.), you wouldn’t freak out that it was damaging your property value, would you? If anyone doesn’t buy a good house because the neighbor has a can of half-used paint on their porch, I would call them a nut-case.

Secondly, the "Waste" products of this facility are anything but dangerous. Any solid waste that is produced is shipped away the same way it came. All gas from combustion is cleaned and filtered so nothing anymore toxic than what you're breathing in right this very second, is being produced. Sure, there's some carbon emissions, but for the energy received in the process and the recycling of old waste, the amount going out now from this facility is far less than if a factory was to produce energy the non-recycling way.
The other major byproduct is water. Oh no, we can't have that there water mixin with our lake water!! --never mind the fact the plant is a good ways SOUTH of the lake, and the only river near the plant (which I remind you, is not receiving any harmful byproducts), is also going south - AWAY from the lake!

Thirdly, you all need to look at the bigger picture. This facility provides alternative energy source using what we already created, rather than destroying the earth to get more, while the stuff we do have is sitting in a landfill taking up space. How is that not extremely environmentally friendly? Why is it always "not in my backyard?" Everyone says they want to keep the environment clean, but they seem to forget that the facilities to work on these alternative energy sources, have to go somewhere. And this isn't even a BAD facility, it has minimal to zero noise, very low emissions, and no harmful by-products. The company, and the technology they use has a very good track record with facilities already set up in other countries, including the USA and Germany. Many top end universities, such as Harvard, even endorse these technologies because they are safe, reliable, clean, and effective. The chance of something going wrong is minimal, and the things that can go wrong are minimal. Even sewage plants blow up every once in a blue moon, but do we all start signing petitions to remove those!? Of course not! Because the benefits outweigh the risks! When you take a spoonful of medicine, there’s a chance you might get worse, but you take it anyway. Why? The benefits outweigh the risks! It’s such a simple process that everyone does in their everyday lives; we weigh the pros and cons and balance them to make an informed decision. Why are we not doing that right now?

That brings me to my fourth point, which are the alternatives we have for that plot of land. Right now a Man by the name of Doug Sanders owns the place, and he is one heck of a jerk! Could care less about anyone besides himself, and would sell that land to the highest bidder, no matter who it was (it could be a terrorist training camp for all he’d care). Now you tell me a person like that is the sort of guy you want deciding who gets the land if this recycling facility doesn’t? The land is zoned as light industrial, meaning plenty of other facilities could go there instead, and the community has absolutely ZERO power to control who that is. It could be anything from a car-wrecking site, to some kind of corner-cutting business that dumps their trash directly into the river. And, since it doesn't have the words "toxic" spread across it's name, nobody would even think twice to actually go there and check that this new business isn't dumping all kinds of things into the river(which I again remind you doesn't lead to the lake, it leads southwards), in the soil, or into the air. They could be burning all their garbage in a barrel, which would have similar content to what this facility is incinerating, except the illegal garbage barrel has nothing at all to keep toxins out of the air. Yeah, they can't legally do these things, but it's a huge amount of work to prove they are, or stop them from doing it when they are a smaller company, without the word "toxic." So who do you want as a neighbor? The plant who says they want to work with the community, promises to be responsible to the community and have their actions constantly monitored to make sure everything is running as it should? Or the shoddy side-run "not toxic" company who has nobody telling them they can or can't dump or burn what they feel like, where they feel like it?

I can tell you who I'd rather have, and it's a "toxic" waste recycling plant. The car seat didn't hurt me driving to university last week, and I expect they won't next week either. The paint I used on my room seems to not be giving me too much lethal radiation, and last I checked, water in my bathtub was pretty OK, so I'm alright with swimming in it.

Please think of the big picture, and get your facts before you listen to people slandering a good company. There are a lot of rumors going around which are untrue (such as neighbors whom support the project having taken bribes). None of that is true, and if you took the time to ask, you'd see that you don't need a bribe to know the truth, and understand what is acceptable or what isn't.

Anonymous said...

We recently stayed in a Cottage For Rent in The Lake District, in the UK, where I can guarantee this sort of thing wouldn't happen. An area of such outstanding natural beauty should be protected as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

The anonymous person who laid out these facts about the truth of the Christina lake project being a good safe socially responsible project is 100% correct. Kudos to you! We have special interest groups who have done nothing but create misinformation and damage the reputation of Christina Lake. There is one of these plants starting up now in Westbury, Quebec using garbage treated wood poles. Take a look at this website and look closely at what these plants really look like and do! This would make a lot more sense than what Sandner would do to us! People, please look at facts and wait for all the information, and don't be mislead by the undemocratic people that put the petition together with false information.

Anonymous said...

The comment is way off base. You should research how many of these plants have had "accidents". There are almost no plants of this kind that are error free. That is not the worst of it, the trucks carrying waste products that will be rumbling through the townsite are far less regulated and have very limited controls on the drivers and could cause all kinds of potencial evironment hassards and or accidents. The risk of spills and problems from the transport of these materials that are high in cloride concentrations is very high and dangerous. these kinds of materials should never be brought anywhere near such a pristine community. the fact that it is even being discussed is crazy. The clorides in the waste oil sterilize the soil, so if even one the transport trucks spills its load you have a major environmental problem. The biggest risk here is with the waste tranport.

Anonymous said...

A challenge back to Anonymous “The comment is way off base”, the fourth responder. As you suggested, I did do some research of similar plants. The three operating in Canada are too new and incident free so I looked at the US using the data base of the Chemical Safety Board and other approaches. Bottom line, I found one fatality incident: the SG Solutions coal gasification plant in Terre Haute, Ind, had two contractors killed when working on a flanged connection on April 28, 2008. No public or other workers were affected at the site. There is a thorough investigation and findings will be published in the future to ensure learnings are shared across the industry. This plant had operated since 1995. I did not notice any other items going back several years for WTE or gasification plants. I might have missed something but nothing systemic about this specific technology popped up. So did you do your research? What specifically did you find and from what reliable sources? It is too easy to make baseless accusations so please provide factual details that can be supported by verifiable documentation.

Regarding trucking accidents. First, the materials coming in are solids or semi solids (railway ties, car interior fluff, congealed left over paint, and oily rags), so how can those spill very far? And if they have chlorides, how can they contaminate the ground? You scoop them up and put them back on a truck. The second issue you have missed in your argument is that in the winter the highways maintenance trucks are spreading sand and de-icer routinely for your safety. The de-icers most commonly used are forms of chlorides! There already are trees dead beside the highway due to salt.

There is one trucking accident to note already as an example. In April 2006 an ECL gasoline tanker lost control east of Salmo after descending Kootenay Pass, and spilled its load causing a very significant environmental mess and subsequent clean-up. The driver unfortunately lost his life. This load was destined for the Castlegar or Boundary region, as these loads typically are. So following your argument that these kinds of materials should never be brought anywhere near our community, are you planning to get a horse?

What I did notice was that the Chemical Safety Board investigation was completed on the Ghent General Store where their failure to follow procedures and standards for their propane tank resulted in the death of four people and injuries to others in that 2007 explosion incident. Given that track record of how these propane tanks explode, does that mean we better have our Christina Lake general stores remove their propane tanks? I wouldn’t advocate that.

People, the point I’m trying to make here is that you need to look at the factual basis for a WTE gasification plant. If you are looking for specific technical or disaster based reasons to be a NIMBY, there is overwhelming information out there, and billions of dollars of capital equipment already operating reliably and safely for years that does not support that excuse We live in a world where we routinely manage risks because the benefits far outweigh those risks that in turn provide us the life style we enjoy. If you drive a car despite the fatality and injury statistics as well as environmental damage from exhaust emissions and the deposition of chlorides on the highway areas, you subscribe to that concept already. Society will seek to continually reduce those risks, but what we see more and more is that it is individuals and their choices that cause the majority of our issues and fatalities in society. So lets focus our discussion on the other reasons pro and con for having a small plant on that existing industrial park near the US border.

When you talk about environmental and safety risks and hazards, and what we should do to handle and reduce our wastes, they are already there because of the lifestyle that exists currently and is enjoyed by the person you see in the mirror in the morning.

thewylfeshdbe said...

The person I see in the mirror believes we cannot continue to consume the lifestyle you are referring to. Saying that because we already have hazards in our environment, makes this gasification plant okay is short sighted and is basically destoying resources what we should be sharing with the future.
And may I remind you that you can't have hazardous "stuff" and just burn it away. "Stuff" is neither created or destroyed according to the laws of physics. Gasification may change its form, but I'm not about to eat, swim and drink in an area where these tiny particles that can't be measured my their emmissions tests will be floating around.

D Tambellini said...

It's not difficult to expose the Aquilini toxic waste plant as a totally inappropriate proposal for Christina Lake:
Citizens for the Protection of Christina Lake now have an updated web site:

Read our top 10 reasons.
D Tambellini
Christina Lake BC

Anonymous said...

Common sense tells me that recycling should be done where the waste is collected. It is crazy to risk the most beautiful lake in British Columbia. I agree with others comments regarding the playing down of environmental risks by those who will profit by the plant. We must stick together to protect the environment from further damage. Surely there is another more appropriate site for the proposed recycling plant. The fish in Lake Athabaska already have red spots on them!

Alberta Wild said...

I am curious and suspicious why a plant like this is not built at the source or collection point of the waste. Not only would they save the expensive transportation costs, there would be less carbon emmissions from the trucks.(this is a mountainous terrain which does require more fuel). So what exactly is the motive for this location? Have these plants been proposed in other locations and been rejected? Possibly. Have the people in Christina Lake got together and said "what this place needs is a toxic waste plant" (I doubt it). How about someone in a political position helping a friend that owns or controls some corporation that sells and or operates toxic waste plants.(naw, politions don't do that do they?) If someone has a possible reason for this please let me know on the blog I just don't get it.

Kris said...

I find the first comment biased and illogical.