British Columbia

B.C. investigates toxic ash at Cache Creek landfill

The B.C. government has launched an investigation into the decision to ship potentially toxic fly ash from an incinerator in Burnaby to a landfill in Cache Creek.
A battle has erupted between the village of Cache Creek, B.C., and a company that ships incinerated waste to the community's landfill — waste that might have been contaminated. (CBC)

The B.C. government has launched an investigation into the decision to ship potentially toxic fly ash from an incinerator in Burnaby to a landfill in Cache Creek.

About 1,800 tonnes of the ash was sent to the landfill in July and August, and fears have been raised that the material may be a danger to human health because the ash contains the metallic element cadmium.

Environment Minister Terry Lake says right now there's nothing to indicate that the ash that was dumped poses any risk, but he's ordered his ministry to investigate whether the companies involved complied with the regulations.

The environmental protection division will work with Covanta Renewable Energy, which operates the incinerator for Metro Vancouver, and Wastech, which runs the Cache Creek landfill, to figure out what happened.

The landfill is not authorized to handle hazardous waste, and ash produced by the Burnaby incinerator is supposed to go to a hazardous waste facility in Alberta.

Metro Vancouver says recent samples tested from the Cache Creek landfill are below the threshold for leachable cadmium.

Mayor questions why test results arrived late

Last week questions were raised by the town's Mayor John Ranta after tests for the fly ash, which was delivered in July and August, didn’t arrive until September and showed leachable cadmium up to twice the allowed provincial limit.

Covanta has been incinerating the Lower Mainland's waste and shipping it to Cache Creek for more than a decade and the company had never been late delivering environmental tests on the fly ash, and had never failed one either — until July.

Covanta spokesman Chris Baker apologized for the delay, but said the tests might be wrong and new tests are needed.

But Ranta said the tests it puts into question all the fly ash that’s been dumped at Cache Creek by the Covanta over the past ten years.

Until the matter is resolved, all new fly ash from Vancouver waste incineration is being sent to Alberta.

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