Shipments of fly ash from Covanta’s Burnaby incinerator to the Cache Creek Landfill have been halted until further notice after two months worth of the treated waste tested positive for high amounts of cadmium.
Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta informed his Council of the situation on Monday night. He said it had been brought to his attention by Wastech, the landfill operators, just a few days before that.
The 1,800 tonnes of contaminated fly ash was trucked up in July and August. “To the best of my knowledge,” said Ranta, it is now deposited in the Landfill.”
The fly ash is treated to bind the heavy metals to it. It is tested prior to leaving the incinerator to make sure the process has resulted in a product that is suitable for deposit in the Cache Creek Landfill, said Ranta.
Shipments in July and August did not meet test requirements, he said, and “could actually be classified as hazardous waste.”
As soon as Wastech became aware of the test results, all acceptance of fly ash has ceased and the fly ash is now being taken to a hazardous waste facility in Hinton, Alberta. It will continue to be hauled there until tests once again prove that the cadmium is inert.
“It was only Wastech asking for the test results that resulted in discovery of the findings,” Ranta said. Normally Wastech receives all of the test results. They had to ask for these results because Covanta hadn’t released them.
The situation, said Ranta, calls into question the wisdom of pursuing Waste to Energy incinerators to deal with the disposal of Lower Mainland waste.
“You would expect that if a load exceeded the tests, that it would not be allowed to leave the facility,” he said.
The 1,800 tonnes of fly ash will be excavated from the Landfill and disposed of suitably, said the Mayor.
“I thought it was important that Council know the situation, and that it will be removed,” he said. “It is important that the Landfill remain a model facility.”
The landfill has been accepting fly ask since 2000. Ranta says he is not aware of any any problems related to fly ash in the past.
“I’m sure local residents will be concerned about this,” he said, and will hopefully be satisfied with the solution.
The WTEF in Burnaby is owned by Metro Vancouver and operated by Covanta Burnaby Renewable Energy. The facility processes approximately 285,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per year.
The fly ash must pass a “leachability test” before it can be disposed as munipal solid waste deposited at the Cache Creek Landfill.
In last September, Metro Vancouver was informed that both July and August 2012 composite samples failed the leachability test for cadmium. Cadmium is present in low levels in some household plastics, such as outdoor furniture or plastic film (coloured). Cadmium is also present in some household batteries and paint.