Common Sense Canadian

Groups decry proposed Fraser River toxic waste recycling site

PostedDecember 18, 2013 by in BC

When Chilliwack resident and conservationist Glen Thompson learned that city council had passed a bylaw amendment permitting a hazardous waste recycling facility on the banks of the Fraser River, alarm bells went off. “That toxic waste site could potentially leak chemicals into this stream…which leads into the Fraser River,” Thomspson notes in a video he made recently depicting the proposed site.

On December 3, council quietly adopted By-law Amendment #3970, rezoning the property at 7582 Cannor Road to an M6 (Special Industrial) designation, thereby enabling the recycling of hazardous materials, including mercury and PCBs. The 1.78 hectare site is located on a flood plain, near the banks of the Fraser River and the Vedder River Canal.

Groups line up against Fraser River toxic waste plan

Mayor Sharon Gaetz has defended the move via social media, maintaining that the city is acting in accordance with the law, but that has done little to reassure the various First Nations and fish conservation groups who gathered on the site yesterday to speak to media about the issue. Said Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee:

For gosh sakes, not on the banks of the Fraser River.

The city contends the property is a “1-in-200-year-flood” site, words that ring hollow for Friends of the Chilliwack River Valley’s Glen Thompson – especially in an era of increasingly unpredictable extreme weather events. Thompson notes the city has installed considerable flood-protection infrastructure in the vicinity of the property. “Why would they do this if there wasn’t a real flood risk,” asks Thompson.

Other groups that added their voice  included the BC Federation of Fly Fishers, Fraser Valley Salmon Society, Watershed Watch Salmon Society, the Fraser Valley Angling Guides Association, the Steelhead Society of BC, the Chilliwack Fish & Game Protective Association, and the local WaterWealth Project.

First Nations not consulted

Local First Nations are also upset that they were not consulted about the plan. Said Sto:lo Tribal Council (STC) Grand Chief Clarence Pennier, “They should at least talk to us about what projects are going to happen in our territory…To be good neighbours, we should be talking to each other.”

Groups decry proposed Fraser River toxic waste recycling site

PCB-laden transformer oil could be recycled near the Fraser River

WaterWealth Project director Sheila Muxlow feels local citizens weren’t properly consulted either, noting “The public was given one week to review a proposal…to build a toxic wate recycling site on a flood plain alongside the main arteries of our home waters…”

Thompson says the volume of materials that could be processed at the facility, proposed by Aevitas, suggest it would serve far more than the local community. The city’s zoning would permit the plant to recycle 5,000 litres of transformer oil – which contains highly toxic PCBs –  and half a million lamps with mercury every month, among other hazardous items.

According to the Chilliwack Times’ Paul Henderson, who reported on Tuesday’s event:

All those in attendance on Tuesday reiterated that…the Cannor Road property on the Cattermole Lands, which frequently has water on it during the freshet, was not a good choice…The groups collectively demand relocation of the proposed facility to a site that does not pose a risk to fish stocks, and comprehensive public reviews of the proposal by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Health.

A report compiled by Chilliwack staff on the proposal suggests it will still require Ministry of Health approval.


About the Author

Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.



    A toxic waste facility on the banks of the Fraser river…….what could possibly go wrong?
    Perhaps the Chilliwack council could rename Cannor rd.
    To Cancer rd.
    Just so there is absolutely no confusion to what will be happening there.


    The good people of Chilliwack and those who rely on the health of the Fraser River and the fish in this amazing river system should be outraged regarding this proposed hazardous waste facility where it could catastrophically and irreversibly impact public health, wild ecosystems, cultures, communities and economies.

    We at Wild Game Fish Conservation International stand with other organizations in opposition to this irresponsible and unethical proposal.

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