An Island solution for regional kitchen scraps is on hold while Capital Regional District directors wait to discover if processing organics and sewage waste at a single facility is feasible.
Saanich’s organic waste continues to be trucked to Cobble Hill each week for processing, while scraps from Victoria, View Royal, Esquimalt and Sidney are being barged to Harvest Power in Richmond.
Last fall, the CRD put out a request for proposals for a regional kitchen scraps site and facility and have since received 15 proposals. But on March 11, CRD staff suggested a “pause on the process” until a market sounding on available technology for sewage processing – with potential integration of kitchen scraps – is completed in May.
“When we get that report from staff, we’ll see what’s changed since 2007, because that’s the last time a market sounding of any kind was done,” said Saanich Mayor Richard Atwell. “We don’t’ know what it’s going to look like.”
Hartland landfill banned all organic waste at the beginning of 2015, which spurred the CRD board last fall to look to “establish a processing society in the region or in proximity to the region.”
Staff expect the latest market sounding – put forward by Saanich Coun. Vic Derman multiple times over the years before it was successfully passed – to look at how residual solids from liquid waste could be integrated, treated and harvested for energy in combination with kitchen scraps.
Central Saanich has experienced firsthand the issue of biosolids processing on farmland. Foul smells caused the CRD to pull the food scraps licence for Foundation Organics in 2013, but the facility has since been permitted to process yard waste only.
Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor said he’s worried the diversion of kitchen scraps to off-shore locations will continue for years if a solution is wrapped up in a sewage treatment facility.
“It’s fairly obvious when the proposal of combining biosolids with other scraps and creating a soil … the community responds in a way that is not positive, to put it lightly,” Windsor said. “But I’ll wait to see the report back in a couple months.”
It’s a stance the CRD too has taken in the past, vowing not to allow biosolids processing on land.
“There seems to be a clear policy that we’ve taken as a board that it not be done in this region,” said CRD board chair and Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, adding it would be a collision of policies to change now. “Before we can even consider that, we would have to go back and revisit a policy which was already revisited twice.”
Once a sewage market sounding is complete, the next step for organics processing would be a shortlisting of proposals. Staff presume a couple months is within reasonable timelines to respond to those who submitted the 15 proposals.
“I would rather see us move forward sooner rather than later. … Operators may not be so keen down the road,” Windsor said.
-with a file from Daniel Palmer