Passing the buck on Cache Creek landfill remediation

A reader writes about who will pick up the multi-million dollar tab for remediation at the landfill.

Dear Editor,

For nearly 30 years, Metro Vancouver has been exporting a lot of garbage (with peaks of over half-a-million tonnes a year) to Cache Creek.

The Cache Creek dump (or landfill, or CCL, for some) is now full, and the contract between Wastech and Metro Vancouver is due to expire at the end of December. As part of the closure plan, the Ministry of the Environment has, it appears, requested that millions of dollars’ worth of remediation work be carried out at and around the CCL.

This remediation work is deemed to be essential by the Ministry because the presence of chlorides in groundwater indicates that an awful lot of toxic leachates may be escaping outside the facility, potentially polluting residential wells and even the nearby Bonaparte River, which drains into the Thompson River a mile or so upstream of Ashcroft’s water intake. Metro Vancouver’s contractual agreement with Wastech requires Metro Vancouver to pick up the tab in the event remedial work would ever be necessary (something scoffed at by nearly everyone, the Ministry included, pretty well ever since the start of this project).

Well, in the eyes of the Ministry, remediation work is now in fact needed; but Metro Vancouver, fearing it would have to pay up, recently appealed the decision of the Ministry, claiming that remediation work is not really needed. Understandable, I guess. Who, after all, would go out of his way to shell out millions of dollars unless he absolutely had to? Not Metro Vancouver, for sure; and not, as it turns out, Wastech and the Village of Cache Creek, which, it seems, are trying to wiggle out of having to pay a cent for remediation work.

Who, then, is likely to pay—and pay big time—if these two parties refuse to honour their obligations? Needless to say, that’s us: the residents of Ashcroft and Cache Creek, who may well end up with contaminated water; or, at the very least, with fear of serious water contamination.

And to make matters worse, and indeed totally absurd, while all this pitiful haggling is going on, the Ministry is about to issue Wastech and Cache Creek a working permit for a massive extension to the existing dump.

Ermes Culos

Ashcroft