The battle over whether and where to build waste-to-energy plants to dispose of piles of Metro Vancouver's garbage is heating up, with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson rejecting the notion of such a facility within his city's boundaries.
"City Council has made it clear since 2011 that we do not support the mass burning of garbage," Mr. Robertson said Thursday in a statement. "The proposal released today at Metro Vancouver is not one that is in line with Vancouver's zero waste goals and is not one we support."
Mr. Robertson was responding to Metro's release Thursday of four potential sites for a waste-to-energy facility.
Those sites include one on Heather Street in south Vancouver. Metro also identified sites in Port Mellon, Delta and Nanaimo.
As part of a staged procurement process, Metro has shortlisted nine proponents that have pitched 10 waste-to-energy proposals.
Along with the four sites disclosed Thursday, six other potential sites have not yet been identified because of "legal and financial reasons."
Metro has one existing incineration plant, in Burnaby, but says it needs additional capacity to handle an estimated 370,000 tonnes of garbage per year that is expected even if Metro reaches its goal of recycling or composting 80 per cent of solid waste.
The waste-to-energy plan is also opposed by the Fraser Valley Regional District, which already lies in the path of pollution that drifts east from Metro and north from Whatcom County in the United States.
"What we have been trying to say to Metro all along, is 'do not add another source of pollution into our oversubscribed airshed,'" Sharon Gaetz, mayor of Chilliwack and chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, said on Thursday.
Asked whether she would support a facility if it were located somewhere that would not affect Fraser Valley air quality, such as Nanaimo, Ms. Gaetz said that while a more distant site would address her district's concerns about air quality and crop impacts, she remains opposed to incineration.
"It's a lazy way of doing business – people are not sorting their recyclables, they are not reusing them, they are wasting a precious resource by putting them in the fire. It's just not the proper way to deal with our waste any more," Ms. Gaetz said.
The identification of some properties is the latest step in a lengthy, and controversial, process to select a company, technology and location for one or more waste-to-energy facilities. Metro officials have said facilities would meet or exceed all provincial health standards and that such capacity is needed to handle the region's garbage despite waste-reduction programs.
Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro's zero-waste committee, said Metro is committed to consultations with the FVRD. "Metro Vancouver is responsible for air quality monitoring and management in the airshed we share with communities in the FVRD," Mr. Brodie said in a statement. "We all care about the air we breathe."
In recent reports, University of British Columbia researcher Michael Brauer has calculated that 21,000 Canadians die prematurely a year due to traffic-related air pollution, nine times the number of deaths from traffic accidents.
All potential sites for the waste-to-energy facilities are to be made public in early 2014. If the province approves the project, Metro says design and construction could begin in 2015.