Contaminated soil may be heading to the islands

  • Feb. 5, 2007 6:00 a.m.

by Alex Rinfret and Heather Ramsay–Thousands of tons of contaminated soil from Kitkatla may be heading to the islands next month to be treated at the landfill site near Port Clements. The soil comes from a former BC Hydro diesel plant in the small community, located on Dolphin Island (just south of Porcher Island) about 45 km south of Prince Rupert. Tim DesChamp, superintendent of waste management at the Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district, said he should know by the middle of this week whether the soil will be coming to the islands. If it does end up being barged here, it will be treated in a “cell” next to the landfill, and won’t clog up the garbage dump or shorten its life in any way, he said. The contractor doing to the Kitkatla site cleanup, Quantum Remediation, would pay the regional district $20 per cubic metre to use the location to treat the estimated 14,000 cubic metres of soil. Once the treatment is complete, Mr. DesChamp said, the regional district will be able to use the soil to cover the garbage when the dump is eventually closed. “At the end of the day, once it’s remediated, we’ve got free cover,” he said. The Prince Rupert landfill wasn’t considered for the material because it’s smaller than dump here, Mr. DesChamp said – the result of years of Rupert’s chronic budget shortfalls. Similar material has been treated at the Port Clements landfill in the past, he said, although in smaller amounts. The contaminated soil from Kitkatla amounts to about 1,500 dump truckloads. Ian Turner of Quantum Remediation, the company contracted to deal with the soil, said Quantum plans to barge the dirt to the islands next month. The soil is to be piled on to huge rubber mats and mixed with microorganisms to induce bacterial action that breaks down the hydrocarbons after several years. This facility is known as a bio-cell. Mr. Turner said the company has a permit with the Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district. “We pay to take the soil there,” he said. Quantum will also be responsible for the costs of the bio-cell. Meanwhile, in Kitkatla, band council member Timothy Innes said the contaminated soil may just stay where it is, especially if there is any kind of resistance from islanders to the idea of shipping it to Haida Gwaii. He said the soil was contaminated over a period of many years due to small leaks at the diesel power generating site. The community now gets its electrical power through a submersible cable from Prince Rupert. “It’s not radioactive or anything,” he said. “It’s not really contaminated like the word sounds.” Wally Cheer, a Port Clements council member who is also on the Islands Solid Waste Management Committee, said the committee was never consulted about the plan. His first reaction was “this is not something we want on the islands.” Mr. Cheer said that due to upheaval at the regional district office, the January meeting was cancelled and he was told by Mr. DesChamp (after his first discussion with the Observer) that’s why the committee was not told about the possibility. Mr. Cheer has not yet decided if taking the soil is a good or bad deal for the islands. He was told Kitkatla doesn’t have a suitable site to build its own bio-cell away from the water. He was also told the Port landfill will need soil to cover the garbage when the site is closed. In some ways, it makes sense, he said. “But it would have been nice to talk about this before it was a done deal,” he said.

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