Both sides weigh in on composting proposal

Public hearing packed out as RDEK board directors hear supporting and opposing sides of a proposed composting facility.

RDEK directors Rob Gay

RDEK directors Rob Gay

Both sides in favour and opposed to the rezoning of a property for a proposed composting facility outside Cranbrook got the chance to have their voices heard during a public hearing at the RDEK board room on Wednesday night.

The boardroom was packed as residents from Cranbrook, Kimberley, Wardner, Fort Steele and Jaffray all came out to express their opinion on the proposed facility, which will be located on property just off Highway 3/93 near the Mayook area.

The facility is proposed by Kris Pickering, the president of Earthrite Industries, which will be run as a private business and include some retail space as well as the composting operation.

Opinion was varied; those in favour cited the need in the area for a composting facility and it’s environmental benefits of recycling organic material. Those who were opposed had concerns with the odour, traffic safety, water usage and potential water contamination.

A common theme from the opposition was that while the majority was supportive of composting, they felt that the location wasn’t ideal.

“There are no properties in the region that are zoned for commercial composting, so all the other properties we looked at would have to go through the process we have gone through to rezone,” Pickering said. “We chose this site due to the fact that there are industrial uses immediately adjacent to the proposed site. There is the industrial-zoned BC Hydro Sub-Station and the Ministry of Transportation Gravel pit directly across the highway.

“There is also an active gravel quarry immediately to the north of the proposed compost site. And only 2.5km away is the 930,000m3 City of Cranbrook pond #3 of human effluent and the spray.”

The hearing had a two-fold process; the first part was a Q&A session where anyone could ask questions of Pickering and his consultants. The second part was the feedback section as both sides could make their voices heard for the public record.

Supportive comments referenced bringing the East Kootenays “out of the stone age” when it came to composting, as there is no large-scale composting business that provides such a service. Those against the proposal cited the safety concerns from large trucks that would be slowing down from highway speeds to turn left (eastbound from Cranbrook) or right (westbound towards Cranbrook) to turn onto the property.

Mike Haslam, a neighbouring property owner, was clear that while he supports composting efforts, the proposed location is not a good area.

“It’s a great idea,” said Haslam. “I understand why the regional district is going with this, however, there’s so many more suitable spots. Mayor [Don] McCormick offered up the Teck Cominco mines where they’re already contaminated, they have a lot larger buffer from residences causing odour, because these things will cause odour regardless.”

Haslam list of concerns included increased traffic coming in from the highway, a lack of topsoil if there is a breach from where the material is stored that could get into the mineral soil and if there are any aquifers in the area, as his well driller says the province is way behind on the mapping.

Pickering’s operation is forecasted to have an annual output of 4,800 tonnes of finished composting material that will require, at max capacity, anywhere between 10,000 to 18,000 tonnes of incoming material.

Depending on weather conditions and moisture content, water consumption could work out to 250 litres per tonne, added Pickering. He points to an environmental study by VAST Resource Solutions that concluded the proposed facility will not impact the water sources or table.

“Groundwater is located well below the subject property and, based on the regional climatic moisture deficit, it is unlikely that contact water would be able to reach the water table,” stated the report.

The issue will come back to the RDEK board table for their March meeting.