Burn plan controversial at Queen Charlotte council

  • May. 17, 2006 6:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay–“End the burning for once and for all,” was the message from two members of the public by the end of the Queen Charlotte council meeting Monday (May 15).
Kevin Gibson and Rolf Bettner made their position clear to a delegation hoping to restart open burning at the old landfill site.
Greg Wiggins of the Ministry of Forests, as well as Garth Johnson of Western Forest Products (formerly Cascadia) and consultant Regina Saimoto presented council with a proposed plan to ramp up activity at the dry land sort in Queen Charlotte.
Mr. Wiggins noted that wood waste would be inevitable if the dry land sort were to be used on a regular basis, and herein lay the “problem.”
WFP is proposing to open burn the waste at the old landfill site. The possibility brings up many memories of a fire in the fall of 1996. It burned underground, or under a large pile of logs, for weeks, until then MacMillian-Bloedel staff could get it under control.
Mr. Wiggins said they were not asking council to make any decisions that evening, but the delegation had come on “somewhat of a courtesy call.”
Mr. Wiggins said that although the southern Graham Island communities are seeking to diversify, logging is still the foundation of the islands economy and the increased use of the sort (it hasn’t been actively used since 1995) could lead to an estimated four to seven full-time jobs.
Mr. Johnson noted that his company has spent more than $200,000 on improvements and work at the sort and the landfill site in the last couple of years and would like to continue.
He anticipates more wood flowing south through their own operations, as well as BC Timber Sales and private land owners.
Ms Saimoto said she researched all the other options for dealing with wood waste and found them to be uneconomical. Alternatives include composting, landfilling and returning the debris to the forest.
She said the burn would be tightly controlled by the permit and approval process of the Ministry of Environment, which requires proper air venting and other elements to be in place first.
When it came time for public comment, Rolf Bettner said he was tired of hearing people make excuses for the economics of pollution.
“Now is the time that the whole concept of disposing something by burning be cast out,” said Mr. Bettner.
“How does this contribute to a sustainable future?” he asked.
Kevin Gibson also suggested a new experiment be tried. He said he’d like to see a system developed where logs are cut so cleanly that most of the waste be left in the forest.
“Cut the waste off in the forest and put an end to the whole thing,” he said.
Mr. Wiggins suggested that more use of the dry land sort in Queen Charlotte would lead to spin-off benefits for community economic diversification, including the maintenance of usable forest roads for recreation, tourism and community access to forest land. He also says an industrial barge loading facility capable of handling large machinery would be another spin-off benefit.
Mr. Wiggins said the use of the old land fill as a wood waste dump could lead to a better source of local fuel wood supply.
With the proposed co-generation plant in Port Clements on hold, there are no other business uses for the wood at this time.
Burning is the current method used at all other dry land sorts on the islands.
Councillor Gladys Noddin asked who would have the onus of proof, to say whether the burning was acceptable to the community or not. She was told the environment ministry will only approve a burn if the last burn was successful.