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Landfill closure will cost Pemberton, Area C

Warner, Gimse vote against amending solid waste plan to allow Whistler’s waste out of region



Representatives of Pemberton and Area C still have major concerns about the impact of the Whistler landfill closure on their residents.

At Monday’s monthly regional district meeting, which brings together representatives from around the region, both Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner and Area C Representative Susan Gimse said there were still outstanding questions for them which had yet to be answered.

With the closure of the Whistler landfill in the coming months, Pemberton and Area C are left without a place to dump their refuse.

They still don’t know where their waste is going nor do they know how much it’s going to cost the taxpayers, except that it will cost them more.

"It’s hard to vote for something (when) you don’t know (all the ramifications)," said Warner, before casting her vote against the resolution, which would allow Whistler to close its landfill and ship its waste out of the region.

"It’s not that I don’t support Whistler but I have a responsibility to the taxpayers in Pemberton who I also have to support."

Gimse joined her in opposition, as did Area B Director Mickey Macri.

But there was enough support at the board table on Monday to approve the amendment to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District’s solid waste management plan. That amendment is one of the approvals Whistler needs before it can close its landfill.

The planned closure date is Aug. 1. After that, the waste is set to go to the Rabanco landfill in Washington State.

Both Gimse and Warner made it clear that they do not want to thwart Whistler’s plans and they understand the need to close the landfill in order to build the Olympic athletes village near the site at the Lower Cheakamus.

"I don’t think any of us want to throw a wrench in that," said Gimse.

At the same time, the decision puts Pemberton and Area C in an awkward position and they feel backed into a corner, she said.

Pemberton and Area C’s waste could be shipped to Rabanco, along with Whistler’s waste, or to the Squamish landfill. Whatever the decision, costs are expected to increase between 15 to 25 per cent. Those increases will be seen in higher tipping fees and increased cost for garbage pickup.

At the same time, said Gimse, the two communities will lose the $36,000 equalization payment they get from Whistler annually to make up for the amount they pay in tipping fees to the RMOW every year.

"It’s a significant hit without knowing about it when you’re doing your budget for 2005," she said.

At the board meeting she questioned why the RMOW only sent a letter notifying the SLRD of their plans to close the landfill just one month ago.

"It’s pretty short notice," she said.

Despite their concerns, the board agreed to amend the solid waste management plan.

Macri, who also opposed the amendment, asked the board to consider his request that would allow SLRD staff to investigate the feasibility of transporting solid waste along Highway 99 over the Duffey Lake Road.

His concerns stem from communities along the route who are worried about the ramifications of Whistler’s waste moving along the highway and the potential for trucks overturning, among other things.

Only two weeks ago Whistler had plans to truck its waste to the Cache Creek landfill in the Interior via the Duffey Lake Road. Those plans have since changed.

Yet Macri still called for a staff investigation in case Whistler one day decides to truck waste north instead of south of the border. He did not get support from his fellow board members for that request.

In the meantime RMOW staff are looking from Wedge Mountain to Brandywine for a suitable spot for a transfer station which would hold the municipality’s waste temporarily before it’s trucked south. In particular they are looking close to the rail line so that they could one day utilize rail cars.

Current plans are for trucking the waste south to Surrey and from there transporting it via rail to Rabanco,