Through the dense mist, Earl Wilder squinted down across a hillside clearing spotted with saplings and ferns above the Chehalis River.
He motioned that the waterway was below his vantage point but the concealing powers of the low clouds only enunciated his point—it’s far enough away, out of reach.
Which parallels his proposal for a zoning amendment that would allow a remediated soil dump operated by his company, Statlu: it was unanimously rejected last week by the Fraser Valley Regional District’s (FVRD) Electoral Area Services Committee (AESC).
“To me, we were just set up from the start they [directors] just didn’t want it in the district,” Wilder said. “So we were shot down.”
He said the technical reports weren’t read, the opposing viewpoints weren’t based on fact and that they didn’t represent a true voice of the area’s population.
“The consensus was that the committee didn’t feel that creating a new landfill facility that had soils which could be contaminated or remediated was of value when you compare it against the environmental values of that area,” said FVRD chief administrative officer Paul Gipps of that fateful decision. “The environmental values of that area are just too important.”
He added that the potential impact of such a facility made the site 10 kilometres up Chehalis Forest Service Road (also known as Chehalis Resource Road) made it unsuitable for that type of product.
But according to Wilder, it’s perfectly safe.
“That’s why we over-designed it,” he said. “It’s a double-lined facility.”
In fact, he points to other dumps that are closer to major rivers in the Fraser Valley, like the Skway Nation landfill in Chilliwack that is a “stone’s throw of the Fraser River.”
Wilder felt that the soil he would take in was a lot less contaminated than his chances of success, and in fact he takes issue with the word “contaminated” adding that perception is everything.
His company would only take soil that has been remediated, which is “contaminated to levels acceptable to contaminated soil regulations of the Environmental Management Act—so totally controlled by the Ministry of Environment.”
Statlu’s methods are so rigorous, even if a 200-year event rainfall happened, leachate material would be diluted 400 million times by the time it travelled to the river, he claimed.
His proposed state-of-the-art leachate collection facility under normal operations ensures that the effluent discharge meets the standard of aquatic life and habitat, “so it’s harmless,” he said.
And after about 20 years, only neutralized soil would remain.
But all of his company’s research, reports and offers to pay for independent peer reviews fell on deaf ears at the different application stages, according to Wilder.
Most people refused to even read the report, he said.
“We’re pretty upset about it all,” Wilder said, adding that he’s not sure he will reapply in six months. “We’re concerned about anyone investing in the province where a political process can nullify the professionals—you can’t invest in a province where that can happen.”
Last week at the same meeting, the FVRD also passed a resolution that will see the group asking B.C. for funding to look at the need for such a facility in the area and which location “could be better and have less potential environmental impact,” according to Gipps.
“What are the types of areas we should be looking at for this,” he added. “Should it be on new grounds that have never had landfills? Where should it be?”
However, the need is clear and present from Wilder’s perspective.
He said there are between 650,000 to one million tonnes of soil remediated every year in the area, that a significant problem with illegal dumping already exists, and that his facility could take around 250,000 tonnes each year.
Wilder said the big picture is about the economics of the project for the community.
“This is a big impact,” he said. “The 20 jobs we see coming with this would be all high-paying.
But that doesn’t seem to be of any importance, he added.
“It’s just ‘no’ and no reasons for ‘no’—just ‘no.’”