Vancouver Predatory Polluter: Nanaimo the Perfect Patsy

B. McPherson
Want a little dioxin with your breakfast?
The Metro Vancouver area is a predatory polluter. For years the City of Vancouver has shipped their waste to other places. Whether it is sewage released into the ocean or garbage, it is consistently moved to someone else’s back yard.

The Iona Island and Lion’s Gate sewage treatment plants are primary treat plants. Iona the largest of the treatment plants spews over 500 million litres of poopy water a day into Georgia Strait.

A standard Canadian wastewater test places ten rainbow trout into a tank of undiluted effluent; if less than half of the fish survive, the plant is said to have failed the test. Primary treatment facilities reduce the oxygen requirements of effluent by approximately 30% – just enough for half of the fish to survive. This is the treatment employed at the Iona facility. - See more at: The Dependent 

When the tourists come to town, when the wealthy in their million dollar condos, the old money in Shaughnessy flush their toilets it all comes sliding into the Strait of Georgia. It passes the test if only half the fish exposed to it die. Adult fish that is.  Residents of White Rock have long known that the famous Dungeness crabs caught off the scenic boardwalk have a steady diet of poop that is swept by ocean currents into the bay from the Iona plant.

The garbage problem for Vancouver is becoming acute. For years they loaded up garbage scows, towed them to the middle of the Strait and opened up the bottoms. This continued at least through the ‘50s. After a bridge was built to Lulu Island, now Richmond, a garbage dump was developed on the banks of the Fraser River. As the population swelled in the Lower Mainland, the site quickly filled and Vancouver searched for a new place to dump their refuse. Fortunately for the residents of Vancouver, a new highway in the BC Interior cut off a thriving small town from travellers stopping in their journeys long enough to eat and overnight. The town was dying. They were desperate. They got a massive garbage dump. The small towners believed that they would get some prosperity back with the trucks and the jobs to tend the mountain of garbage. What they got was a big headache.

Cache Creek is now famous for its massive garbage mountain. The local Indian band has been monitoring leachate from the gunk buried there. The town still looks like it’s dead.

Metro Vancouver is now looking for a new victim to take its trash.

As far back as 2010 Metro Vancouver, a consortium of 21 municipalities started looking at burning the garbage. With phrases like “win win” various companies are looking to cash in on the never ending stream of throwaways. We are talking billions of dollars per year.  The phrases “waste to energy” are bandied about as the new way to look after the garbage problem. Vancouver has an incinerator in Burnaby that burns about 300 000 metric tonnes of garbage a year and a shiny new one could handle another 700 000 metric tonnes, taking care of the region’s needs.

It all sounds so simple and good for everyone.  Not so fast. About one third of what is put into an incinerator is called ash and it is toxic. Ask yourself why the incinerators have stacks when the waste heat is directed to producing electricity. It is so that dioxins, furans, vaporized metals, tiny particles of toxic ash are spewing out. The best estimate is that only 1.5% goes into the atmosphere. Do the math. That’s 10 500 tonnes of toxins disposed of into the atmosphere each year, poisoning crops, animals and people.

The opposition to installing a pollution factory on the Mainland was so loud and long that it was shelved.

Now it seems as if Metro Vancouver has found the perfect patsy in Nanaimo. Bureaucrats working for the Regional District of Nanaimo which includes small town Nanaimo have been engaging in secret talks with the big boys from the city and with private, for profit, incinerator manufacturers. It has only been when a local politician put two and two together and called out the bureaucrats that some admission of their stealthy actions was admitted. Negotiations have been entertained to place a massive garbage burner in Nanaimo.

These whiz bang negotiators for the RDN have brokered deals with a private composting company that promised no odors would emanate from the facility. They have fouled air for miles around. Currently they are trying to damp down the putrid smell with formaldehyde, a cancer causing agent. Those in charge of that fiasco are terming it a success.

Nanaimo once touted itself as a “World Class City” and “Cultural Capital of Canada”. Perhaps it is looking for a new title, that of the “World Class Garbage Dump”.

Further Reading:
Green Alternatives to Incineration in Scotland. 

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