NIMBY-ism and tough composting decisions

Part of being an RDOS director is that occasionally you are on the receiving end of public outrage about this decision or that decision.  My email inbox currently runneth over with demands that the Marron Valley option be removed from the short list of new compost sites.  What is missing from these letters is an alternative location.  To spell it out: When you say, “Not in my backyard” in this type of decision problem you are really saying, “In someone else’s backyard.”  Just demanding “somewhere else” is not sufficient because RDOS staff have already looked at pretty much the whole region (the advantage of a good mapping system).  And the status quo has significant financial implications for all of us.  So just telling us you don’t want a composting site near you is not new news.  What we require is information that causes us to reassess the balance of trade-offs.

Some background:

As you may be aware, we have problems at the Campbell Mountain landfill (the big blight on the hills to the northeast of Penticton).  Two things need to be stated at the outset:

  1. We are all complicit in the creation of waste.  It is a problem that belongs to all of us.
  2. Someone is not going to be happy with the solution. 

 

Trade-offs are inevitable in problems such as this.  Some of the candidate composting sites are far away (thus increasing cost and greenhouse gas emissions due to hauling).  Others are closer and cheaper but within sight of existing residences.  Based on the general trade-offs, the alternatives have been short-listed to two: the Marron Valley site on PIB lands south of Kaleden and the Summerland landfill.  Each site has pluses and minuses but RDOS staff seems to be favoring the Marron Valley site at this point due to proximity and relative ease of access.  The Summerland site is at the northern end of the Campbell Mountain service area and would involve routing additional truck traffic though Summerland, past Giant’s Head School, and through Prairie Valley.

Now I am not saying Marron Valley is a done deal--the RDOS has yet to vote on anything.  And I am also reminded every time I look across the valley at Campbell Mountain that siting mistakes are (a) possible, (b) long-lived, and (c) consequential.  But what I am saying is that the pure NIMBY approach to public debate is unhelpful.  It is not moving us any closer to making a better decision.  Those who don’t want to have the compost site located in Marron Valley have to make some solid arguments for why it should be located in Summerland (or in one of the non-short listed locations).  I think most will agree that this is a more difficult task.

Comments

I received the following via email.  This is more like it.  We are now talking about the relative merrits of different sites and recognizing that the criteria matter.

I must admit I am one of those causing your email inbox to “currently runneth over” but I do not apologize for lobbying my elected officials to make sure that decisions are made on behalf of all voters and citizens.
 
When you say that what is missing from these letters is an alternative location is simply not true. The RDOS has looked at over thirty sites of which 9 sites were considered sufficiently viable to conduct impacts on GHG, Transport, Odour and Life Cycle costs. Other sites could also be considered, such as crown land east of Penticton or the Weyerhaeuser site. The point being that cost is being used as the ultimate determination on whether the site is viable. Take a look at the Triple Bottom Line Analysis conducted by your consultants. The sites are ranked by the above four impacts but cost is the one that makes the cut. For instance, if you were to not consider cost, the Penticton WWTP site rates the best location by far. If you remove cost then the Summerland site is shown as the better location than the Marron Valley site.
 
So, what you are saying is that in order to save all the RDOS taxpayers some money you will have 31 residents of Marron Valley lose $100’s of thousands or millions of dollars in property value. Is that democracy………that the few are to pay the most to benefit the many?
 
You say that the RDOS staff seems to be favoring the Marron Valley site but that is a VERY premature judgement. I was at the meeting where Cameron Baughen made a presentation to the RDOS directors on March 2, 2017 and he was asked which site was preferred AT THAT TIME. He did answer Marron Valley. However, he was discussing the results of the Triple Bottom Line analysis carried out by your consultants, SLR Consulting (Canada) Ltd. I’ll quote from that document: “Triple Bottom Line is a generic description for any analysis of options which involves a selection of criteria which comprise financial, environmental and social parameters”. Notice that the social parameters had not yet been assessed……that is what the open houses and discussions with the public has been all about. Only two of the three analysis had been carried out at that time.
 
Even at that, the conclusion of your consultants was: “If the RD (regional district) considers that odour control is the primary concern in the site selection process, then the TBL (triple bottom line) analysis suggest that development of a new regional processing facility at Summerland would be the marginally preferable option” AND “Development of an AD facility at the City of Penticton WWTP for co-processing of biosolids and food scraps is an attractive proposition in principle and shows strong scores in respect of GHG and transport impacts”
 
When I had a conversation with Mr. Baughen last week I referred to his answer at the March 2 meeting and he told me that it was premature since they hadn’t yet conducted the social aspects of the issue.
 
So in conclusion, I am not being a NIMBY. I have pointed out the many negative aspects of the Marron Valley Site and have shown that even the RDOS staff have good reason to pick Summerland. And except for the cost, other sites are even better. But why not save all the RDOS taxpayers some money when ONLY up to 31 residents will suffer major financial loss?

First of all I am the author of the above reply to Michael Brydon. It was not my intention that I was anonymized. I would like to continue the dialog:
As a proponent of the South Okanagan Conservation Fund I am sure that you would agree that the better way to preserve the habitat is to not cause the environmental damage in the first place and then use the Conservation Fund to clean up sites that are already damaged. The proposed Marron Valley Site lies in an area where significant industry or environmental damage has never taken place, whereas the Summerland Landfill has already seen industrialization.

It appears that the negatives towards the Summerland Landfill site being used as a Regional Compost Site is mainly because of the slight increase in traffic on Prairie Valley Road which passes through School zones. However, this road has been designated an Arterial Road and truck route, the second highest volume designation after a highway. Average daily traffic in 2007 was 1,866 vehicles per day (I am waiting for an update on this data). An additional twenty or so trucks traveling in each direction daily will not make a statistical difference in a road that is designed for many times this volume. If the school zones are truly affected by the additional trucks then money earned by Summerland from the RDOS lease and taxation of the compost facility could be used to make the school zones safer – perhaps erecting a fence along the side of the road. (Data and highway information obtained from the Transportation Master Plan (2007) District of Summerland)

Camereon Baughen (RDOS Solid Waste Management Coordinator and project lead) presented this document to Summerland council.  It addresses some of the issues facing the Summerland site. 

Mr. Brydon, I would like to include my comments to the document prepared by Cameron Baughen which I had previously emailed you.

Please read the memo (document). It makes a very positive view of selecting Summerland for the RDOS Regional Compost Site. I have made the following summary and comments regarding the memo:

1. The Summerland site does not require re-zoning and is in an area of a number of gravel extraction operations and is the site of the Municipal solid waste and compost facilities.

Comment: Although the Marron Valley Site would not require re-zoning as it is part of the PIB, the land surrounding the site is zoned ALR and some is being used for growing hay and grazing cattle. It seems somewhat hypocritical for the RDOS to sidetrack the intent of the ALR regulations by utilizing land that physical should be part of the ALR and using it as if it was zoned M4 - Resource Industrial Zone. The better use of this land would be agricultural which would make for better neighbours. The Marron Valley site is not currently disturbed by industrial operations.

2. At the Summerland site, the RDOS will make lease payments on the property to the District of Summerland at a rate based on a fair market assessment and the District of Summerland would be the recipients of a tax rate that the facility will be assessed.

Comment: At Marron Valley all RDOS lease money accrues to a single individual untaxable by the RDOS and there will be no taxation of the facility by the RDOS. The lease and tax money at Summerland could be used for upgrading Prairie Valley Road or for building a partial by-pass.

3. No additional buffers are required at the Summerland site by the Province and placing a composting site within the present buffer area may be the highest and best use of the land.

Comment: The Marron Valley site is located in an area, but not in, the ALR and the best use should be consistent with the intent of ALR zoning. This area is also environmentally fragile which slopes down to Marron Lake and a popular Meadowlark Festival Event. An archaeological impact assessment has not been conducted and it is likely that many artifacts will be found.

4. At the Summerland site, improving the current composting process will increase the value of compost for local growers and reduce the cost for shipping for local growers.

Comment: Compost produced by the Marron Valley site would increase the transportation costs for local growers of the Summerland area.

5. An operational compost site in Summerland will produce credits applicable under the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program which would allow local governments to meet obligations under the BC Climate Action Charter and help fund the compost site which would allow for lower tipping fees which will save Summerland money.

Comment: At Marron Valley, no credits applicable under the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program will be generated for Summerland or the RDOS.

6. Approximately 3 full time jobs and several part time jobs are expected. Workers would be needed for heavy equipment, scale house operation and office work.

Comment: At the Summerland site, employees will likely be Summerland residents.

7. At the Summerland site, odour modelling indicates that no homes would be within the mapped 5 odour unit limit. Also the wastewater treatment sludge from the present windrow composting at the Summerland landfill would be treated at the Regional facility for reduced odour at the present site.

Comment: Odour modeling has indicated that 31 homes may be affected by odour at Marron Valley. Going ahead with the Marron Valley site with prior knowledge that property values already have been adversely affected may leave the RDOS vulnerable to a lawsuit in an amount equal to the loss in property values plus legal fees. Tax payers of the RDOS do not want another situation like the 1997 Blackwell Stores lawsuit which resulted in a bill of $5.2 million to Naramata residents.

8. A maximum of 20-25 vehicles a day could access the site to deposit materials, although most days there would be fewer. The vehicles would be properly sealed and monitored and would not release an odour until they are unloaded within a building with odour control.

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