By Andrew Mitchell
After just two and a half years in operation, the Carney’s Waste Systems composting facility in Squamish halted regular operations on Sept. 1 and will remain off-line until local governments can decide on the future of the facility.
The odour from the curing site, where composted materials are stored until they can be ready for sale, is no longer the major issue Owen Carney told attendees of the Sept. 6 AWARE meeting, now that the curing site has been relocated to the landfill. However, in light of the fact that the Squamish Industrial Park, where the composting system is based, has become a business park — a stone’s throw from the new Wal-Mart and Home Depot — Carney acknowledges that the organic recycling centre was no longer a good fit for the area.
According to Carney there are several options for moving the compost equipment, including the new waste transfer station slated for the Callaghan Valley area now that the Whistler landfill is closed, but his company is no longer willing to take on the financial burden of operating the system.
The added expense of dealing with odour issues, as well as the lack of material coming in and the time spent building a market to sell the final product, has put the compost system well into the red. Carney would like to see local governments take the system off his hands at this point, and for governments and businesses to support the compost project.
“We really need government to intervene here and help us out with this project, it’s bigger than we can do on our own,” he said. “We spent eight years, a lot of millions of dollars, a lot of no-sleep nights, and at the end of the day we see we need local government. I would sell it at a lower price if it came down to it… and Carney’s would be willing to continue to manage it for them if that’s what they decide they want.”
Carney says the company did its research and knows the system could break even or even generate a small profit, given the higher tipping fees in the Sea to Sky corridor and the ability to sell the recycled organic product to landscapers, gardeners, and others who need high grade soil. However, he says the compost system does not currently have enough customers, or enough material going through to make it viable as a private operator.
For one thing, Carney says it’s clear now that the system needs Whistler’s biosolids, which are currently treated and cured at the sewage treatment plant and used for municipal projects. And while there has been a lot of support from local grocery stores, restaurants and hotels in Whistler — the Fairmont Chateau Whistler alone sends 25 tonnes of organic material every month — some strata management companies still don’t provide the service to their commercial tenants, including several large restaurants. Local governments could change that, says Carney, the same way they made recycling other waste materials the norm.