No pat on the back for landfill operators

Writer wonders why it took the Cache Creek Landfill operators so long to start converting methane to energy.

Dear Editor

A good portion of the Cache Creek Landfill‘s gases may at long last be converted to usable energy. The electrical energy (to be…maybe?) produced, we’re told in the Nov.27/14 issue of the Ashcroft Journal, would be enough to “power 4,800 homes for almost 20 years.” That’s a lot of energy, and for that I am tempted to give a huge pat on the back to Wastech and to Cache Creek Council and to the Ministry for making that happen. But for that temptation to be translated into a palpable pat we need to take a bit of a look at the circumstances.

The energy to be converted would power 4,800 homes for roughly 20 years, we’re told. I would guess that a home uses at least a thousand dollars worth of electricity (more if heat is included) per year. So, in dollar terms, over the next 20 years the Cache Creek Landfill will produce 4,800 X 20 X $1,000 = $96,000,000 worth of energy. That’s a lot.

Consider this, though:

Cache Creek and Wastech have had the capability of doing this for many years – at the very least for the past 10 years. Yet – out of neglect? out of indifference? out of Ministerial inability to follow up on its own directives? – they did nothing, allowing 4,800 homes’ worth of energy to go to waste for 10 whole years. That’s $48 million literally burned.

What’s worse is that during all those years those unused gases (mainly methane) were allowed to cause an untold amount of pollution to the Ashcroft-Cache Creek air and to the environment as a whole.

We’re told that those gases were flared, and flared methane is less harmful than unflared methane. That may be true, but it is also true that until three years ago the amount of flared gas was a little over 50 per cent of the gas actually generated by the CCL, which means that the atmospheric pollution was very very significant.

Moreover, even today over 20 per cent of the gas generated by the CCL is not captured, which means that despite the energy conversion a lot of methane and carbon dioxide continues and will continue to be wasted (to the tune of $19 million, more or less, according to the math used above) and to pollute our environment.

This is why, tempted as I am to give Cache Creek and Wastech and the Ministry a big pat on the back, I just can’t do it.

Ermes Culos