At its regular board meeting on April 18, members of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) board voted unanimously to defeat a motion for third reading of Bylaw No. 2678, which included a rezoning amendment to enable an Eco-Depot in Boston Flats.
Members of the public were given the opportunity to address the Board and provide their views on the rezoning amendment at a public hearing at the start of the meeting. Written submissions had been provided by Lois L. Home and Gord and Corry Fehr, and the Fehrs, as well as five other residents, gave oral submissions about their concerns and the potential impact of the Eco-Depot. Jamie Vieira, the TNRD’s Manager of Environmental Services, provided the Board and public with a presentation on the function of an Eco-Depot and answered questions.
Many of those in attendance cited a lack of consultation by the TNRD with Boston Flats residents. Among the concerns raised were the visual impact of an Eco-Depot just off one of the main access routes to Ashcroft, an increase in dust, odour from materials at the site, the impact on house prices and property values in the immediate area, an increase in traffic on Highway 97C as people accessed the site, the possibility of leachate and drainage issues at the site, and the possible impact of more mudslides in the area.
Several people asked if the TNRD had considered other sites for the Eco-Depot, or had investigated the possibility of improving access to the current Transfer Station at the Cache Creek landfill site. The Transfer Station has also been accepting recycling since the closure of the unmanned recycling bins in Ashcroft and Cache Creek in August 2018, with Vieira noting that the site has only ever been intended as a temporary one following closure of the landfill in 2016.
A report prepared by the TNRD after concerns were raised by Boston Flats residents at a Community Forum in Ashcroft on April 11, which was distributed at the board meeting, addressed many of the points raised, as did Vieira in his presentation. The report stated that many TNRD Eco-Depots and Transfer Stations are in similar rural communities, some of which are in closer proximity to homes than the proposed Boston Flats property, and that input states that the Eco-Depot operations are not negatively impacting neighbours in other communities. Trees would be planted at the site to act as a visual screen.
Other available properties in the vicinity were considered, as was the option of building at the current Transfer Station location, which Vieira notes poses several challenges. The proposed Boston Flats location was found to be the most favourable due to easy and safe access for residents; close proximity to both Cache Creek and Ashcroft; suitable land for construction; and close proximity to the landfill.
The report noted that odour is not an issue at any of the other 28 Eco-Depots operated by the TNRD. All garbage is loaded directly into roll-off bins, and the lids are closed when the site is not open, with full bins hauled to the landfill on a regular basis. No garbage will be piled on the ground, and no composting is planned at the site.
Areas at risk of small spillage will be concrete, and the collection area for household hazardous waste will be paved, with these materials collected in bins and containers with spill containment, then removed from the site for processing. The report noted that historically these materials—which are not accepted at the current Transfer Station—often end up in the garbage, which can increase the risk of leachate from landfills.
The report says that no operations at the Eco-Depot would impact the organic certification of local properties, and that traffic on Highway 97C is not expected to increase, as the site will only service local residents and small businesses, who already use the highway on a regular basis. Large commercial trucks will not use the Eco-Depot; they will go directly to the Cache Creek landfill.
The report also notes that there is no discharge of any kind into the environment at any TNRD Eco-Depot or Transfer Station, as they are only collection points for recycling and garbage. During extreme rain events, bin lids will be closed, and storm water management will be considered as part of the design.
While day-to-day operations will create minimal dust, the report states that the dust created by the operation of the Eco-Depot will be far less than that of a typical gravel pit operation. The Boston Flats site is immediately adjacent to a Ministry of Highways gravel pit. Dust suppression techniques would be used during construction.
Light pollution at the site would be minimal, since lights—with the possible exception of one light at the front gate—would be turned off when the site is closed. Noise is expected to be comparable to that at other light industrial sites, with diesel trucks (used to move the roll-off bins to the landfill) and customer vehicles being the common sounds.
Litter blow-out would be dealt with by regular and frequent litter pick-up by staff. Litter-blow out is considered a very low risk at the site, as large commercial loads will not be dumped there. Small residential loads are usually bagged and are unloaded by hand, creating very little blow-out.
The issue is being reconsidered, and the regional district will determine a course of action going forward.