A Bad Decision

July 1, 1999

By Michael Jessen

Earlier this week, a representative of the Regional District of Central Kootenay announced on Boundary Kootenay Radio that a recycling processing depot would be built in Balfour and a number of employees at the current Nelson depot would be losing their jobs. The employees in question heard this news via the radio; no one took the time to inform them personally before the news broadcast.

It is becoming clear beyond a doubt that the RDCK no longer cares about recycling; the major goal of the politicians would appear to be shedding employees, unceremoniously if need be.

The conclusion to build a recycling processing depot in Balfour is a bad decision for a number of reasons. Let me count the ways.

This is a bad land use decision. Locating a major waste processing facility in the middle of a residential area is sheer idiocy. The only reason the RDCK is choosing this option is the fact they own about 10 acres of land on Heyland Road, the site of the current garbage transfer station and recycling drop-off. If nearby residents thought the traffic to the current facility was heavy wait until big trucks start bringing in the tons of recyclables (created in Nelson) and even bigger trucks come in to take the processed recyclables to market (driving through Nelson again). The rural character of Upper Balfour Road will be destroyed. Iím almost positive even the RDCK planning department wouldnít approve of such a location for this facility, but Iím almost equally positive they were not consulted.

This is a bad transportation decision. Like all municipalities across Canada, the RDCK is supposed to be making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources. This decision, which will increase truck traffic along the already crowded North Shore corridor, flies in the face of this commitment. When are our political leaders going to understand that the unrelenting growth in traffic volumes and in motorized transport are resulting in an insupportable strain on the carrying capacity of the environment?

No doubt a budget has been prepared for this project, but Iíll bet no environmental budget was prepared to indicate the impact of this project on air, land, water, and sustainability. Funny how careful thought goes into decision-making with artificial resources like our tax dollars, but when it comes to the resources we depend on for our lives, nothing is done. This project is so silly, it is not even worth our tax money to do an environmental impact statement. This proposal should never have seen the light of day, much less be discussed on radio as if a fait accompli without even consulting residents and employees.

The most disturbing thing about this project is how the decision making at the RDCK is done Ė behind closed doors, with no public input. What are these politicians afraid of? Siting of facilities such as this should be subject to review by the Ministry of the Environment, Lands and Parks since it is a major departure from the Solid Waste Management Plan submitted to the ministry two years ago. It is also disturbing how the RDCK will not tolerate opposition to its decisions. I have been told by recycling depot employees that they were threatened with privatization of the recycling operation if they mounted any opposition to the move to Balfour.

About 20 years ago, the RDCK decided to put a number of garbage trucks on the road when the decision to use the Canex Landfill for Nelsonís garbage was made. Over the objections of Salmoís residents they were presented with a never-ending stream of garbage trucks going through their community. Now the residents of the North Shore and Balfour will have to endure a never-ending stream of recycling trucks going through their communities. If we donít correct the mistakes of the past, we repeat them. The residents and businesses of Nelson create the vast majority of recyclables. They should be processed in Nelson. There is no need to take this show on the road.

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