MOE satisfied, but fly ash safety in doubt

MOE presented it's report on the failed fly ash tests to residents in Cache Creek and Ashcroft.

Cache Creek Council will request that the Ministry of Environment conduct additional testing of the fly ash that is comingled with waste in the landfill and that they include groundwater monitoring wells as a closure requirement.

The Ministry presented the latest report on the fly ash in the monofill at the Cache Creek Landfill last week at meetings in Cache Creek and Ashcroft.  The report by Stantec (Burnaby WTE Facility Fly Ash Review, Feb. 5, 2014) concluded that the fly ash which tested positive for cadmium in July/Aug. 2012 was likely caused by a faulty testing process and not because the WES-PHix process failed to bind the metal to the ash.

The test results caused the Ministry of Environment to slap a letter of non-compliance on the landfill operators, Wastech and the Village of Cache Creek, for allowing toxic material to be deposited in the municipal landfill. All further truckloads of the flyash were taken to toxic waste facility in Alberta.

“The report seems to be satisfactory to the Ministry of Environment,” said Mayor John Ranta at the Apr. 14 Council meeting, but it’s not satisfactory to the people of Cache Creek.”

The 222 page review looked at data already collected by previous reports, talked to laboratories, scientists and staff at the Burnaby incinerator, and cluded that since it could find no other documented problems with the WES-PHix process, and since  the lab doing the testing had not followed the required procedures, then the bad results were likely to be the result of bad testing.

“We can’t say definitely that the leachate wasn’t contaminated,” said Doug Whiticar of Stantec as he presented the study, “but it’s not likely. We feel the fly ash can resume going to the monofil.”

He added that optional supplemental testing could be done in order to be sure that the chemical makeup of the material is not leachable, and to determine whether any amendments are needed. Cache Creek Council has asked for that testing to be done.

Metro Vancouver has been depositing fly ash at the landfill since 2000, but only in a separate monofill since July 2010.  Before that, it was comingled with the rest of the garbage.

At the Cache Creek meeting, Mayor Ranta questioned the review saying the fly ash was accepted at the landfill based on the Ministry’s approval of the WES-PHix process.

“So, is the basis on which we accepted the fly ash wrong?”

He noted that in one part of the review, it stated that the WES-PHix process is permanent, and yet in another part it indicates that it can be unstable.

“If it’s done properly, it should be permanent,” said consultant Dr. Frank Roethel.

Ermes Culos asked if that would still be true after it was exposed to an acidic environment. Roethel said it could be possible, but not likely.

“We were told it was safe when it came here,” said Don Hillyard. “First it was put on top of the soil. Then it was buried. Then it had its own monofill. Now it doesn’t come here at all. How safe is it”?

Metro Vancouver was represented by Paul Henderson, who explained that they were in the process of looking for a new site to deposit the fly ash, and so far Wastech hadn’t  indicated any interest.

Culos asked if exposure to rain made a difference with the WES-PHix process. Roethel replied that it didn’t, so Culos asked why they would choose a landfill with a dry reputation

“I don’t know why the location was chosen,” said Roethel. The process is used to bind metals to fly ash in many less dry landfills around the world. “Rain generates leachate which also has to be treated and disposed of.”

One of Wastech’s employees stated that at least one in 10 truckoads of fly ash arrived at the landfill soaked to the point of being a “slurry”.

“I share Mr. Culos’s perspective,” said Ranta, pointing to over 100,000 tonnes of comingled flyash exposed to moisture.

Ranta also asked if the MOE was satisfied enough to rescind its letter of non-compliance.

Sr. Environmental Protection Officer Carol Danyluk said they would inspect the site and look at the data, but since the data was based on questionable lab tests, they could issue a formal notice that the data that the non-compliance was based on was in error.

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