By Alex Rinfret–Port Clements council members say it makes absolutely no sense to barge thousands of tons of contaminated soil here from Kitkatla, and they are also concerned the waste could be trucked through their village on its way to the landfill.
The plan to bring the fuel-contaminated soil to the islands has not been finalized, but councillor Wally Cheer has been told by regional district staff that a deal with Burnaby-based Quantum Remediation to do so is almost complete.
The plan would see the soil moved from Kitkatla next month, barged across Hecate Strait, and then trucked to the islands landfill north of Port. It will be decontaminated over a period of several years.
Port council members were completely opposed to the soil deal after discussing it Monday night (Feb. 5) and voted to write to the regional district protesting the move, with copies going to MLA Gary Coons and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
There’s conflicting information at the moment about how much contaminated soil is involved. Mr. Cheer, who also sits on the islands solid waste advisory committee, said the Kitkatla soil is a huge amount – 1,500 to 2,000 dump truck loads. When spread out to be processed in a bio-cell, it will take up as much room as three football fields, he said.
But Brian Stuckert, general manager of Quantum Remediation, which is handling the clean-up, told the Observer his company plans to take most of the soil to Prince Rupert, and wants to use the landfill here only if there’s more than can be handled on the mainland.
He says there’s likely 7,000 metric tonnes of soil in Kitkatla to deal with, and Rupert can take 5,500, leaving about 1,500 metric tonnes, or just over 200 dump truck loads that may come to Haida Gwaii.
“We are hoping that all the material will go into the Rupert facility,” Mr. Stuckert said, “the use of the Queen Charlottes was really a back-up, if the volume was greater than we can handle.”
“This is all non-hazardous soil,” Mr. Stuckert added.
One possible transportation plan is to take the soil from Kitkatla to the islands by barge, land the barge in Port’s industrial area, and then move it by dump truck to the landfill site, 10 km north of the village.
Port Mayor Cory Delves said the plan is expensive, complicated, and environmentally risky.
“Unless they have a huge, huge budget, I don’t know how they can even consider it,” he said. “Why would they think of barging it over here?”
Kitkatla, on a small island south of Prince Rupert, is in the Skeena-Queen Charlotte regional district. The contaminated soil is from that community’s former BC Hydro diesel generating plant.
Councillor Urs Thomas said there’s the potential that Masset Inlet could become contaminated with the barge traveling through.
“It’s got some real potential for problems,” Mr. Delves agreed.
Mr. Cheer said the islands solid waste committee was never consulted about the plan, which is being dealt with at the regional district office in Prince Rupert. Committee members are trying to get together for an emergency meeting to discuss the situation, he said.
In Kitkatla, band council member Timothy Innes told the Observer the contaminated soil may just stay where it is, especially if there is any kind of resistance from islanders to the idea of sending it to Haida Gwaii. He said the soil was contaminated over many years due to small leaks at the diesel generating site, now replaced by an underwater cable from Prince Rupert.
“It’s not radioactive or anything. It’s not really contaminated like the word sounds,” Mr. Innes said.
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