A long-awaited Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen organics processing facility is finally moving forward, though in a phased format rather than all at once.
The district's Solid Waste Management Plan had previously identified organics collection, treatment and processing as the "primary means of diverting approximately 40 per cent of waste going to landfills in the RDOS."
The district purchased an 80-acre parcel at 1313 Greyback Mountain Road above the Naramata Bench with the aim of establishing an a treatment facility in 2020, and a grant for $10,984,380 was obtained for construction with a deadline of March 31, 2025.
That vision ground to a halt when an application to the Agricultural Land Reserve to exclude the southern part of the property was denied.
In July 2023, the RDOS board circled back to the issue, deciding to apply for an extension of the grant deadline an, in the meantime, move forward on plans for the one-third of the property which is not within the ALR.
At Thursday's meeting this week, district staff proposed spending $1.9M on a contract to AECOM Canada Ltd. to construct a food-waste only compost facility.
The compost facility is expected to divert between 26 and 40 per cent of waste that is currently going into the RDOS’ Campbell Mountain landfill, potentially elongating the landfill’s life by a quarter of a decade or more.
Solid waste manager Andrew Reeder told the board that investing in the current landfills is the most fiscally responsible way to go, rather than seeking new sites or other options.
“We looked at options to ship out of region we looked at incineration, and we also looked at increasing the lifespan of our landfills, and what we found by far was the cheapest was to expand the life of existing landfills where possible,” Reeder explained.
“And the cost differences were [roughly] double when we were looking at shipping in our region.”
Still in limbo is the previously hoped-for complementary biosolids processing facility on the remainder of the land, which is contingent upon Agricultural Land Commission support. The RDOS currently does not have that green light.
Adrienne Fedrigo, RDOS director for Naramata, was concerned about spending money on one facility before the other was sure to go ahead.
"If we don't get approved for biosolids facility, it's going to be in a separate location. And now you're going to end up buying more equipment and spending more because now again, we're trucking and using equipment, potentially across the region," Fedrigo said.
The biosolids facility is also key to addressing a current stench that residents note coming from the landfill.
But most of the rest of the board felt it was time to move forward with a first step, voting first for a zoning amendment to allow the new facility and then awarding the contract to AECOM Canada.
"I think the pros are outweighing the cons on this," said Martin Johansen, RDOS board member and Oliver mayor.
"Anything that we do that we're trucking and contracting out leaves us in a situation of liability because that could end at some point. And then what do we do if we're unable to manage it in a proactive, positive way, an environmentally safe way, and having odour control ... I'm gonna say it. I think it'd be irresponsible for us to do anything else."
The organics facility will service more than 50,000 residents of the RDOS, including all of Penticton and down through the South Okanagan into the Similkameen.