Treated wood issue dominates Port council meeting

  • Feb. 4, 2009 7:00 p.m.

By Jeff King-Questions-and answers-about restoring the public wharf dominated Port council’s meeting Monday night. Port resident Tim Fennell raised several issues that concern him, including the toxicity of the treated Douglas fir that is to be used for the approach to the wharf. On January 13, the village ordered $60,000 worth of the fir from an off-island company, a move not popular with Mr. Fennell. He told council the wood, which is treated with copper arsenate, has a whole bunch of problems associated with its disposal. “There is no way to dispose of it,” Mr. Fennell said. He told council that if the wood is burned, the ash becomes lethal, to the point where one ounce of ash could kill 250 people. He said putting the waste wood in a landfill is not an option, as the material would find its way into the water table. And he said the amount of treated wood Port is buying contains about 3,000 pounds of toxic chemicals. “There is no disposal option that is safe,” he said. “The one thing that really sticks here, you are bringing in this toxic waste. Disposal costs down the road are going to be huge,” Mr. Fennell said, adding “why would you expose this community to a known carcinogen?” “I don’t think that council has considered this rationally,” he said.Mayor Cory Delves said as far as he knows, the wood has no such problems.”The information we have received is that it is safe for the marine environment, it is safe for playgrounds,” he said, “We don’t have any plans to burn it. It is the responsibility of the contractor to dispose of material in an environmentally acceptable manner.” On Wednesday and Thursday, the village is circulating a mail-out to residents explaining the issue and saying that council is committed to doing all the dock work with local labour, and that the treated Douglas fir “is expected to stand up better than local species.””As for the environmental concerns regarding the use of treated lumber, the treatment ACZA (Ammoniacal Copper Zinc Arsenate). Despite the production and use of billions of board feet of preserved wood, there are no published reports describing environmental damage associated with the use of treated lumber in aquatic environments,” the mail out says, adding that “..treated lumber can be used for commercial, residential (interior and exterior) industrial, playgrounds and gardens.”Mr. Fennell is also concerned about the tendering process. He says it didn’t give local producers enough time to produce the material required, effectively shutting them out of the major portion of the work.Mayor Delves said the tendering process was set by other funding deadlines the village faced, and that inviting off island competition encourages all to bid fairly.Chris Marrs sat on the committee several years ago looking into whether the village should take the wharf over from the federal government. He told the meeting Monday that his group always saw the wharf as a community project.”The essence of the decision, we wanted the money to enrich our community.From not knowing fully whether the toxicity is harmful or not, I would err on the side of wanting to live in a healthy community. Many people in town feel the same way. It should be as safe as possible,” Mr. Marrs said. Other members of the public who spoke on Monday included Dave Unsworth. He told council that treated waste wood in the lower mainland has to be trucked to Kamloops for disposal. “When that comes time to come off (our dock), God knows what it will cost to get rid of it.I’m not a tree hugger, but.,” he said. The wood was cut and treated last week. It’s expected to be delivered to Port this month.