The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has been leaking metals and other materials into Crater Creek, according to documents obtained by Pique .
Documents obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request include an e-mail sent on April 25, 2008 by Lindsay Rear, an environmental technician with Cascade Environmental Resource Group. Her message expresses concern that sediment, nutrients and metals are leaking into Crater Creek from a pile of biosolids and woodchips near the Whistler Athletes' Village. The creek is a tributary of the fish-bearing Cheakamus River.
"Machines are mixing the wood chips with the bio-solids on a regular basis, affecting the runoff that drains into Crater Creek," she wrote. "This runoff is bypassing the RMOW leachate pump station and is entering Crater Creek untreated."
An Aug. 12, 2008 e-mail from Environmental Stewardship Manager Heather Beresford indicated that runoff into the creek continued to be an issue.
"The environmental monitoring report for June says that despite the work, the site is a constant source of elevated levels of sediment, nutrients and metals to Crater Creek and the water quality remains poor with high conductivity and turbidity," she wrote.
The site she's referring to is a pile of biosolids and woodchips located next to the old landfill site, just a short distance from the athletes' village. Treated biosolids, including human waste from Whistler homes and condos have been trucked there since November 2007, in the interim between the landfill's closing and the opening of the composter.
In a previous story related to the biosolids pile, Environmental Services Manager Brian Barnett said he was certain that leachate wasn't getting into the creek from the biosolids. Now, however, he's seen Beresford's e-mail but thinks the materials are coming from the old landfill site.
"We know that landfill leachate is getting into Crater Creek, which is most likely, in my opinion, the source of the metal contents that were discovered there," he said. "About 95 per cent of the landfills in B.C. have no liner and of course they generate leachate due to that, so most of this landfill has no liner."
An April 16 water sampling report prepared by the Surrey-based Bodycote Testing Group shows that inflow to a detention pond located next to the biosolids carried a phosphorous concentration of 0.023 milligrams per litre - above the 0.015 limit under B.C. guidelines. Outflow from the detention pond had a concentration of 0.016 milligrams per litre.
Another report from Bodycote showed an aluminum concentration of 1.14 milligrams per litre in a "leachate upper pond." It also found an iron concentration of 3.57 milligrams per litre, each of them well above a "nominal detection."
Results were based on a test sample from April 15, 2008, 10 days before Rear raised her concerns with the RMOW. Flows into the pond could be coming from either the biosolids or the old landfill site, which is located uphill from the pond.
Barnett said it's likely that leachate is entering Crater Creek from the old landfill site and said the RMOW has spent approximately $5 million installing a collection system for runoff, but the e-mails make clear that some is escaping. He seemed confident, however, that any leachate coming from the biosolids isn't dangerous.
"We've spent millions of dollars on a leachate collection system but the fact remains it's an unlined landfill," he said. "No question there's going to be some leachate from this landfill, just like every other landfill in the province."
Barnett went on to explain that the treated biosolids will be taken down the road from their current site and put towards a "wildlife corridor" that will help grow vegetation for wildlife that live in the Cheakamus forest area. The corridor is slated for an area that's closer to the river than is the current biosolids pile.