Metro Vancouver incinerator emissions only tested once annually
The Fraser Valley Regional District says it’s impossible to know what the real incinerator emission numbers are with only a single scheduled test per year. They say emission numbers could be worse than we think. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
The current method to test the impact of Metro Vancouver’s incinerator on air quality has Fraser Valley officials suggesting the positive emission numbers being produced are inaccurate.
Fraser Valley Regional District vice-chairwoman Patricia Ross said on Wednesday emissions from incinerators are measured by annual scheduled tests, and that means differences in the amount of pollution produced at various times of year won’t be catalogued.
“I don’t believe we’re getting the full story,” she said. “They’re only required to measure and disclose a very small amount.”
According to Metro Vancouver, the current pollution coming from smokestacks at the Burnaby incinerator produce .001% of the regional fine particulate matter, and .9% of the region’s nitrogen oxide in the air.
Incinerators, according to Metro Vancouver’s Roger Quan, produce about 21-25 times less greenhouse gases than the alternative of landfills — which come with lots of methane gas.
Responding to a concern that the scheduled tests would allow incinerator operators to prepare in advance for inspections, Metro Vancouver senior engineer Chris Allan said it’s “impossible” to do random checks.
He said Metro Vancouver looks at the incinerator once annually and inspects a single flue, but equipment takes a day to set up before tests can be done.
“So there would be no truly random surprise way to show up for random testing without the operator knowing,” Allan said.
“In terms of selecting waste to kind of cheat the test, if you see the facility, it’s a refuse bunker, and the garbage comes in — it’s mixed waste — there’s really no way to have some stockpile of special material set up inside.”
Quan added that carbon monoxide levels are constantly monitored to ensure waste is properly burned, which reduces the amount of emissions.
Ross said building a new, larger incinerator — Metro Vancouver says a project proponent won’t be selected until 2016 — would mean the Fraser Valley would get hit with the worst air pollution.
According to the FVRD’s numbers, Metro Vancouver produces 58.5% of emissions in that region, and Ross — an Abbotsford councillor — is worried more pollution would drift that way when a new incinerator is built.
The cost of a new incinerator has been pegged at $517 million if the money were spent in 2018, according to Metro Vancouver, which has narrowed three potential locations: Nanaimo, Port Mellon and Delta.