There were more questions than answers as more than 50 people gathered at the Brackendale Art Gallery on Wednesday, Dec. 12 to discuss a wood-waste co-generation plant proposed for the Cheekye Fan.
SNC Lavalin has proposed building the plant, which it says would burn 250 tons of clean wood waste per day to generate electricity, with all of the combustible material drawn from a five-mile radius around Squamish.
But many of the speakers expressed concern that there is not enough clean material in the area to keep the plant going, and are worried that the plant may be used to burn municipal garbage, municipal solid waste material and even sewage sludge trucked in from the Lower Mainland. Concerns ranged from increased pollution to decreased property values, though several speakers said if the proposed plant does only burn clean fuel at a high temperature, it could actually improve air quality currently degraded by many smaller outdoor burning operations.
"We dont know the magnitude of the project or who it is serving," said Paradise Valley resident Nicola Kozakiewicz. "We dont know what waste will be burned or where it will come from. Lavalin has been evasive."
She cited possible pollutants in the form of particulates, dioxins and other substances as potentially harmful to residents and the environment, as well as diesel fumes from the trucks needed to haul all the material to the property, which is owned by B.C. Hydro and is next to the utilitys substation in the fan.
"Is this sort of thing self-policing or is there an agency to monitor pollution levels?" she asked. "Self-enforcement can often mean no enforcement."
While many in the crowd came to hear the facts before they make up their mind, Ferdinand Vondruska said residents must "make it clear to city council were not going to take this garbage not ever.
"Why is Squamish in such a mess? Why are we even talking about transferring pollution from the land and water into the air? Do we really have that much wood waste here? Lavalin says it can get 250 tons a day in wood chips and waste for the next 10 years. Thats more than 92,000 tons a year," he said. "Im concerned that someone at Lavalin has a hidden agenda. And I suggest that the powers that be in Whistler pay a little more attention. They are a bit complacent and blasé about what is going on outside their four walls, but this will really affect them."
Spencer Fitschen said if the plant burns only clean wood waste and it stops all the other wood waste burning in the community, which is not being done cleanly, it would not be a bad deal.