Metro Vancouver is searching for a cheaper place to dump fly ash from its Burnaby garbage incinerator instead of the current method of trucking it almost 900 kilometres to a landfill near Hinton, Alberta.
The fly ash – taken from scrubbers in the plant's stack – used to go to the Cache Creek Regional Landfill, but the regional district has been unable to dump it there since tests in September of 2012 revealed higher than acceptable levels of leachable cadmium in some loads.
The regional district estimates it will pay $3 million more in 2014 for ash management costs as a result of the higher cost of trucking and landfilling the fly ash, as well as increased costs of landfilling bottom ash, which also began failing tests recently.
"It's definitely substantial," Metro solid waste general manager Paul Henderson said. "The costs of fly ash management are more than double what they previously were."
Metro is seeking bids from other landfills to take the fly ash for at least three years and expects to award a long-term contract by the end of the year.
Henderson said that should reduce the costs somewhat compared to the more expensive month-to-month disposal arrangement at Hinton.
Asked why Metro doesn't dump the fly ash at the Vancouver Landfill in Delta, Henderson said there's no regulatory reason not to do so but Metro's practice has been to use an industrial landfill specifically authorized to take incinerator ash.
He said Metro has concluded after continuous testing over the past year since the earlier test failures that fly ash from the incinerator is within regulatory levels.
"That and other information brings us to the conclusion that there was no hazardous waste ever delivered and that it was simply a laboratory error," Henderson said.
An independent consultant is reviewing all the findings and has yet to make recommendations on what to do with the fly ash that failed tests and is still at the Cache Creek landfill.
Metro Vancouver has also been forced to significantly increase testing of the incinerator's bottom ash after tests in April showed it also had high levels of cadmium.
In the past that bottom ash – 50,000 tonnes per year – had been used mainly as a road construction additive.
It's now mostly being landfilled at the Vancouver Landfill, although a few loads found to have more than twice the regulatory limit for cadmium have been separately stockpiled for closer analysis.
Metro officials believe batteries, particularly rechargeables that power electronic devices, are the main source of rising levels of cadmium in the region's waste stream.
Metro also expects to spend more than $300,000 on consultations and public engagement in 2014 for various projects – including the planned construction of a new waste-to-energy plant, development of a new residential drop-off centre for recyclables in Surrey and plans for a broader ban on organic waste dumping in 2015.
The additional spending won't have a major impact on the garbage tipping fee, which will rise $1 to $108 per tonne next year.
Tipping fees fund most of Metro's overall solid waste operating budget, which is up five per cent to $94.1 million for 2014.