Groups decry proposed Fraser River toxic waste recycling site
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:
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.”
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.
A report compiled by Chilliwack staff on the proposal suggests it will still require Ministry of Health approval.