The Williams Lake and Area Regional LandFill

By Tera Grady —

Part of the Cariboo Regional District’s Solid Waste Info Series:

The garbage from Williams Lake and area, including 150 Mile House, Horsefly, Wildwood, McLeese, Frost Creek, Chimney Lake, Alexis Creek, and Riske Creek, is disposed of at the Cariboo Regional District’s (CRD) Gibraltar Landfill. Two to four loads of waste are transported to the landfill in 53-foot walking floor trailers five days a week, each weighing approximately 19 tonnes. Annually there are between 12,000 and 13,000 tonnes of waste disposed of at the landfill.

Waste is compacted onsite with landfill equipment into three-metre-thick layers. Once the layer or “cell” is completed, soil cover material is placed and compacted along the outside edges and top of the cell to encase the waste. This helps to keep out moisture, oxygen, and vectors like birds and flies. If a cell is not completed at the end of a shift, it is covered with an Alternate Daily Cover (ADC) constructed out of old conveyor belts, which keeps any precipitation and vectors out in the short term, as well as keeps the scatter (windblown garbage like plastic bags) to a minimum. Above-ground nets strung between old telephone poles are used along the edge of the Landfill to catch any scatter that is airborne during daily operations. An electrified bear fence also surrounds the Landfill to keep the larger vectors like bears and coyotes out of the site.

Historically, landfills in the Cariboo have been naturally attenuating sites, meaning they are located in areas with substrate that is not well drained. This means that if any landfill leachate is generated it will stay within the landfill footprint rather than leach into the groundwater. The low-precipitation climate in the Cariboo also makes for good landfill locations. This is the reason the Cash Creek Landfill was established where it is—it creates the same amount of leachate in one year as the Vancouver Landfill creates in one day.

In 1991, the Williams Lake Landfill on Frizzi Road was nearing end of life, and the CRD spent 10 years trying to find a new location. Eight sites were identified, but after 40 meetings over a decade,not one site was found acceptable by the public.

In 2001, management at Gibraltar Mine proposed building the much needed landfill on their site which was not operating and on “care and maintenance.” The site was proposed as socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable as there would be no further disturbance of the environment and most of the needed infrastructure was already in place.

The CRD hired an engineering firm to construct and engineer a state of the art landfill. Gibraltar and the CRD entered into a contract in which Gibraltar would operate the landfill for the CRD.

Construction began on April 1, 2003 and the first load of solid waste arrived October 1, 2003. The total permitted footprint of this site is 15.6 hectares and a final elevation of 1,250m. The estimated lifespan is between 60 and 100 years.

The Landfill operates under a permit to CRD under the provincial Environmental Management Act. Gibraltar’s staff conducts daily and weekly inspections; the CRD conducts quarterly inspections; and, the Ministry of Environment inspects the site bi-annually.

The Landfill is fully engineered, meaning its base is lined with an impermeable plastic that collects any landfill leachate and diverts it to an on-site treatment system, consisting of an aeration pond, a settling pond, and three wetland systems. Once a section or phase of the Landfill is completed it is closed and reclaimed by placing the same impermeable plastic liner over the top of the waste to prevent any infiltration of precipitation. The top is capped with soil and seeded with grasses.

The Landfill is not located in one of Gibraltar’s empty pits, as many assume. Its permitted footprint is located on the outside edge and top of one of Gibraltar’s waste rock disposal sites. Landfill construction has been focused on filling beside and against the outside edge of the rock dump slope to reach the same elevation as the rock dump’s top plateau. Since 2003 several phases of expansion and reclamation have been completed and in 2014 the first expansion will occur on the top of the plateau, which will allow several years of landfilling without expansion construction. 

The landfill costs amount to well over a million dollars annually or approximately $100 per tonne of waste. These costs are shared by the City of Williams Lake and the 

CRD, and can be reduced through waste reduction and diversion. The Conference Board of Canada recently compared the amount of municipal waste generated per capita, measured in kilograms between 17 countries, and Canada ranked last place, meaning per capita Canadians produce more waste (777kg per capita per year) than any of its peer countries. Since 1990, Canada’s waste generation per capita has been steadily increasing causing us to fall behind the US and Australia. This is disturbing news, but understandable when we look at how many disposable and poorly made goods we purchase yearly.

What can you do to help?

The waste reduction hierarchy lists the first action as AVOID (or refuse); just don’t buy it in the first place. Next is REDUCE: if you know you toss out the remains of last week’s celery every week, start buying less of it. Third is REUSE: before you purchase something new, check out your local thrift store, second hand shop, or share shed. Before you throw something away ask yourself if someone else might find it useful, donate it to a thrift store, try to sell it, or drop it off at your local share shed.
Fourth is RECYCLE: this isn’t limited to household items like old newspapers and cereal boxes; this includes all electronics and appliances, batteries, used oil and antifreeze, compact florescent light bulbs, paint, tires, metal, and organics like food and yard waste. Next is RECOVER, which refers to recovering energy from waste. In our area, this isn’t an option for the majority of waste that is left-over after all of the other actions are taken, but it does apply to wood waste. In the Williams Lake area non- reusable wood waste dropped off at your local wood waste yard is ground up and sent to the Atlantic Power co-generation plant.

TREAT includes in vessel, large scale regional composting systems where high heat is used to treat all food waste including meat and dairy, something that is not yet available in our area. The last action is DISPOSE.

More about composting: Approximately 21 percent of waste is food waste. Not all of it is suitable for backyard composters, but all of your veggie and fruit waste can be mixed with your leaves, newspapers, or brown paper bags to create nutrient rich soil for your gardens or yards. Bread, pastas, and meat waste would surely be loved by one of your pets, and if you don’t have a pet maybe a worm composter is of interest.

If you live or work in Williams Lake’sdowntown core, learn about the Potato House composting program. For $10 you, or your employer can purchase a counter-top container to collect your veggie and fruit waste, which can be dropped off in the on-site pallet composters. They are also accepting leaves and grass waste. The CRD will be subsidising backyard composters again in the spring of 2014. Email to sign up for advanced sales.

More about recycling: Approximately 20 percent of waste is paper and paper board, glass makes up 3 percent, plastics are approximately 12 percent, and metals come in at about 5 percent. With the exception of glass, all of these types of waste are accepted in the curbside recycling program run by the City of Williams Lake. CRD residents can use the recycling depot at the Central Cariboo Transfer Station on Frizzi for all of these types of waste, including glass.

Recycling isn’t just for at home. Contact the local garbage and recycling hauler to find out how you can recycle at work. In 2014, residential access to recycling will increase with implementation of the CRD’s new Solid Waste Management Plan, and the provincially mandated Extended Producer Responsibility(EPR) program will also be expanding to include all printed paper and packaging. This means styrofoam and plastic bags as well as any other food or product packaging will be recyclable.

Tera Grady has a degree in Natural Resource Management and is a Registered Professional Forester. As a child, Tera spent hours at the Timmus Thrift Shop where her grandmother worked. As she grew older she found great satisfaction in picking up litter along the local road, and has always been an avid re-user and recycler. Tera worked for Mt Polley Mines for four years as an Environmental Technologist where she was exposed to landfill management, site reclamation, and groundwater sampling. In 2009, she became the Supervisor of Solid Waste Management at the Cariboo Regional District and oversees the operation of 14 landfills and 18 transfer stations throughout the District. When Tera entered into the Solid Waste Management field she felt like she was coming home to where she was supposed to be.

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