So Cache Creek Mayor Ranta is now dancing for joy at the news that after having kept him on tenterhooks for the past couple of years, the Ministry of the Environment (MoE) has finally granted Cache Creek and Wastech a notice of intent to issue an operational certificate to permit dumping at the proposed landfill extension.’(“Cache Creek landfill receives notice of intention for operational certificate”, www.ash-cache-journal.com July 29; see story on p. 1).
The Ministry’s decision, really, comes as no big surprise. It has, after all, approved every aspect of the Cache Creek landfill (CCL) from day one, no matter how socially and environmentally questionable or unsafe it was. The CCL started out against the wishes of the communities of Ashcroft and Cache Creek, especially of the local First Nations bands and all the bands along the Cache Creek–Hope corridor. The MoE paid no regard to them.
The CCL started in the late 1980s with the assurance to local residents and to First Nations people that no leachates and no landfill gases would ever be generated by the facility. When it became obvious that both these assumptions were terribly wrong (perhaps because of initial ignorance), the Ministry winked and let the operation carry on.
According to the initial terms of the contract, the CCL was supposed to last no more than 20 years and to receive a maximum of 200,000 tonnes of garbage per year. When Metro Vancouver started sending us 500,000 tonnes per year, the MoE saw no harm in it, nor did it see anything wrong in allowing the operation to carry on and on and on.
And now, nearly 30 years later, and as this very bad project is nearing its end, the Ministry—this unrepentant ministry—is signing on to an even bigger, longer-lasting, and—if the past is any indication—far more damaging operation.
It’s amazing, really, especially if we consider the following:
The Ministry knows that, according to the latest Golder Cache Creek Landfill Annual Report, things are not going too well at the CCL. It knows, for example, that increasing amounts of toxic substances (chromium and selenium, just to name a couple) are showing up at the downgradient monitoring wells; and, since these substances are in the groundwater headed towards the Bonaparte River, it knows that even very small amounts of them impose health risks for a community like Ashcroft, which draws its drinking water from the Thompson River, just a mile or so downstream of the Bonaparte. (And Ashcroft itself ought not just to know this, but to be very concerned about it as it sets about to upgrade its water system.)
The Ministry knows that the trust fund set up for the existing landfill is not to be tampered with (and apparently Mayor Ranta is trying to tamper with it), since the time is fast approaching when costly maintenance will be necessary and remediation work may well have to be carried out.
Yet the MoE is once again paying greater heed to Mayor Ranta’s concern about royalties than to its duties as a safeguarder of our wellbeing and the environment.
But—the Ministry may feel—Mr. Ranta has only the good of his residents at heart. Maybe so; but hasn’t his unwavering focus on garbage done more—much more—damage than good to his community over the years? Doesn’t the Ministry recognize how his obsession with his garbage “industry” has blinded him to other safe and profitable ventures, like tourism or farming, as the example of Ashcroft’s Desert Hills Ranch demonstrates?