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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Coal in stocking from Metro pols

To the Editor, Vancouver Sun:
Two Metro politicians put coal in our stockings with their Christmas greeting this year (Reduce, recycle, waste-to-energy the answers for managing Metro garbage, December 24, 2012).

The week before, Jordan Batemen of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation had called out Metro politicians for “forging ahead with plans to build a $450-million waste incinerator that will reinforce our addiction to garbage, freeze out private contractors and put the Fraser Valley air shed at risk.” (Taxpayers feel pain of politicians and their perception that they are going green, Dec. 17).

To make their case that new incinerators won’t pollute and will be cheaper than landfills, Brodie and Moore cited “independent” economic and environmental analyses that were carried out three years ago by consulting firms working under contract to Metro Vancouver (see AECOM report, for instance). These studies told Metro what it wanted to hear.

Brodie and Moore may not know how much the current regional incinerator costs us. I tracked these expenditures up to 2004, relying on data provided by Metro staff at my request.

As long ago as 2004, Metro had already spent nearly $41 million dollars on upgrades to a facility whose original cost was $88 million.

Within the first 5 years of operation, the Burnaby incinerator cost us $500 thousand for a carbon injection system to treat mercury and $200 thousand for a filter to reduce particulate emissions. Three years later, we faced a $800 thousand cost for a system to treat nitrous oxide another $700 thousand for a flyash stabilization system.

Speaking of flyash, the company Metro currently contracts with to operate the Burnaby incinerator is under investigation by the provincial government for losing track of 18,000 tonnes of toxic cadmium-laced flyash (Cadmium contamination in Cache Creek dump appears worse than previously thought, Vancouver Sun, November 2, 2012)

And then, the engineering firm Metro retained (HDR) to manage the planning for the new incinerator recently had to quit because it had its own agenda (Waste-to-energy consultant quits Metro Vancouver project after ‘perception of bias’ in email, Vancouver Sun, December 7, 2012). But over half of the $1.9 million consulting money had already been spent.

The northern European countries that Moore and Brodie like to cite for their “internationally accepted waste management practices” are now experiencing a new crisis. They built too much incineration capacity and are competing to import waste from other countries (see, for example, this report from Public Radio International). Already Metro’s 2008 projections of waste volumes have had to be revised downwards several times, due to the economic slowdown and new programs to divert large volumes of organic waste. Incinerators have to operate at full capacity 24/7 or the pollution control systems don’t work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put the incinerator on hold until we decide if we need it? 

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