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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.

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