Recongizing that their existing unlined landfills could pose an environmental threat to the pristine salmon-bearing waters of the Kitsumkalum River and Thornhill Creek, 20 years ago the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) embarked on a complex journey to reduce the amount of garbage being generated and to establish a new regional landfill that would have less environmental impact than the existing unlined landfills in Terrace and Thornhill.
Approval of the project required a co-ordinated team effort from the RDKS board, City of Terrace Council, RDKS staff, MOE, local First Nations, and a diverse team of expert consultants, and extensive consultation with the public. The resulting transformation is totally revolutionary. It includes new curbside automated collection of recyclables and organics, a state of the art Gore composting facility, a new landfill with an advanced five stage treatment system, and a shiny new transfer station facility.
After evaluating and investigating numerous potential landfill sites, the Forceman Ridge area located on Highway 37, halfway between the main towns of Terrace and Kitimat, was selected as the preferred location. It is about 30 km south of Terrace, far away from any creeks and rivers and on an ancestral alluvial fan of sand and gravel that will provide abundant cover and construction material. Although many stakeholders were concerned about the new landfill site, at the end of the day the new landfill was broadly supported by the host communities on account of responsive design changes such as the addition of a secondary liner, long term local jobs, and mitigation measures to offset habitat loss.
Protection of groundwater resources was of paramount importance to the community. In addition to the double liner, a leak detection system was added to provide early warning of potential problems. The leachate treatment system was designed for minimum impact as well. The system includes a 90,000 m3 equalization lagoon capable of storing a full year of leachate production, an aeration lagoon completed with 30 diffusers, a sedimentation pond, a sand filter, and a 2.5 Ha phytoremediation area that is being planted with more than 4,000 poplar, alder, and cottonwood trees. During the summer treatment season the trees will uptake most of the treated leachate that will be generated on this project, resulting in minimal discharge to the environment.
A comprehensive economic model of the entire RDKS solid waste system was developed to guide design choices and to ensure that the project could be developed within the $17.5 million capital budget. The model included a waste generation projection, and tracked capital and operating costs for collection, transfer, hauling, composting, recycling, and landfill disposal of each waste component.
The model confirmed that system costs would be minimized by developing a transfer station close to town and hauling waste in large transfer trailers rather than requiring the municipal and commercial packers to make the long trip out to Forceman Ridge. In a somewhat unconventional move, two high capacity Titan end dump trailers were purchased for the haul, facilitating back hauling of compost, top soil, and construction materials to Thornhill and a very durable, low maintenance haul solution.
Ultimately, it was determined that the existing Thornhill landfill was the preferred location for the new transfer station facility. A three bay steel building was erected to accommodate commercial traffic while public self hauls are managed in a six-bay “Z” wall facility with 50-yard roll off bins for MSW, clean wood waste, yard waste, demolition waste, and asbestos.
Organics collected curbside are tipped into a dedicated organics bin that is transferred to a Gore composting facility, also located at the Forceman site. The new $2.2 million composting facility has three concrete tunnels inside a 1,500 m2 MegaDome fabric building and two outdoor curing bays. The compost facility has a design capacity of 4,000 tonnes/year. Air is introduced into the pile with large blowers to control oxygen, heat, and moisture. Gore membranes isolate the organic waste from vectors and do a great job of containing odours.
The RDKS and SHA adopted a “self managed approach” to deliver this project. Rather than tendering one or two large contracts that could only be bid by large companies based outside the RDKS, this project was broken up into five smaller contracts for 1) landfill closure at Thornhill, 2) transfer station construction at Thornhill, 3) site grading and berm construction at Forceman, 4) liner placement at Forceman, and 5) Environmental Upgrades at Forceman.
Contract values ranged between $1 and $5 million. The individual contracts were jointly managed and co-ordinated by SHA and RDKS staff. Four of the five contracts were awarded to local contractors, keeping $14.4 million of the capital budget at home in the RDKS.
In addition, the self manage team also procured $2.5 million of the infrastructure through smaller tenders and invitations to quote for the Titan trailers, roll-off bins, office building, maintenance shop, and lock blocks, saving on the mark-up normally charged by the general contractors when procuring equipment for projects. Through a carefully structured tender process that included education, job shadowing, and training, a local contractor was selected to operate the facility, keeping the operations dollars in the RDKS as well.
In recognition of the creative solutions developed by the project team, the project was recently awarded the Environmental Sustainability Award by Mary Polak, BC Minister of Environment, much appreciated kudos for an exhausted but proud design and management team.