Biosolids blunder? Nanaimo officials caught off-guard by CRD sewage waste vote

Biosolids blunder? Nanaimo officials caught off-guard by CRD sewage waste vote

The Capital Regional District’s plan to send biosolids to Nanaimo has hit a snag after officials in the regional district say they were never even presented with the idea. Now, the CRD is looking to find a solution for its latest waste problem.

In February, the CRD board voted on sending Greater Victoria’s sewage by-product to Nanaimo to be used as fertilizer on forestry lands.

The decision came about because the Capital Region’s wastewater treatment facility, which produces the byproduct, has already been in operation for two years, yet there has not been a reliable long-term plan produced for what to do with it.

Originally, they were to be sent to the Lower Mainland to be used by LaFarge as fuel for its cement plant in Richmond, but last year saw the plant close 300 out of 365 days, so instead they’ve been sent to the Hartland Landfill.

However, biosolids are not legally allowed to be dumped in landfills in B.C., so the province has been lenient with the CRD until it can find a long-term plan.

That brought the board to the February vote in which they decided to start shipping biosolids to Nanaimo, where they would be used as fertilizer for logging and reforestation sites or mining areas.

But there’s one big problem. Nanaimo never offered to take them.

“At this point in time, there has been no proposal that’s been provided to the Regional Nanaimo District (RDN),” said Sean De Pol, director of water and wastewater for the RDN.

De Pol says despite no agreement being in place, Nanaimo is open to helping.

“We are interested in seeing the CRD’s proposal,” said De Pol. “We have not seen that yet, but absolutely there is benefit of resource recovery of any kind.”

For three decades, Nanaimo has been using its own biosolids as fertilizer on forested lands. De Pol says the region’s award-winning program hasn’t seen any consequences in the 30 years it’s been around.

“There is no migration of material off-site, and it’s beneficial for the vegetation,” said De Pol, citing numerous studies that have been conducted. “We have not observed any negative side effects.”

Unlike Nanaimo, what to do with Greater Victoria’s waste has split the region politically. Land application of biosolids is currently banned in the CRD.

The RDN and the CRD are scheduled to meet in mid-March. De Pol is expecting a biosolid proposal from the CRD then, if not before.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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