Cleaning up the Cache Creek Landfill

The authors clarify how contaminated fly ash is being taken care of at the landfill.

Dear Editor

There has been much media interest and news coverage this past week about the fly ash issue at the Cache Creek Landfill (CCLF). We’ve been busy answering a lot of questions, some based on inaccurate information, and thought you’d like to know what is happening in response to the situation.

The regular monthly testing of the fly ash, and assurance that it is not hazardous waste and safe for disposal at CCLF, is the responsibility of Covanta, the operator of Metro Vancouver’s waste incinerator in Burnaby.

Wastech requested missing test results from the summer and, upon review of the data, realized the fly ash shipped in July and August from Covanta to the landfill contained elevated levels of leachable Cadmium. The material was unknowingly handled by Wastech, transported and disposed at CCLF – a facility not classified to receive hazardous material.

The integrity of the CCLF is a priority for us. We are working on assessing the problem created by the contaminated fly ash, and have taken measures to protect the facility, the community and the land. This is what we can report:

– As soon as Wastech noticed the high leachable Cadmium content on the fly ash test results, formal notifications were sent to Metro Vancouver, the Village of Cache Creek and the Ministry of Environment. Wastech immediately halted all fly ash activities. At that point, Wastech also took the position that it would not resume accepting fly ash until it had assurance about the composition of the material.

– Leachable Cadmium does not pose a threat to human health. The potential issue with leachable Cadmium is its impact on leachate composition. The fly ash is contained in a dry monofill in the CCLF Annex, with a dedicated leachate collection system. This means the material can be tested and, if necessary, excavated and moved to an appropriate facility.

– Wastech employees and contractors are aware of the situation. Wastech will continue to provide updates as the information becomes available. We do not have answers to questions about what created the problem – those questions should be directed to Metro Vancouver and Covanta – but we can speak to the proactive actions Wastech and the Village are taking to deal with the situation and keep the community and facility safe.

– Wastech hired Golder, the engineer of record for the CCLF, to conduct a detailed analysis of the material deposited in the landfill from July to September 2012. Golder began sampling material in the fly ash monofill. The testing plan was provided to the MOE and Metro Vancouver.

Janet Tecklenborg, General Manager, Wastech

and John Ranta, Mayor of Cache Creek