Hope landfill leaking waste into Fraser River
Leachate leaves the Hope landfill on a path for the Fraser River. Nov. 29, 2012. (CTV)
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:16PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:18PM PST
The First Nations community in Hope is calling for the closure of a landfill that’s been leaking potentially toxic waste into the Fraser River.
Chief Andy Alex of the Union Bar First Nation told CTV News he’s been trying to have the Hope landfill shut down since the 1980s.
“We’re river people here in the Fraser Valley,” Alex said. “My dad used to trap in that area, and fish.”
The problem is leachate, which discharges directly from the dump into Shadbolt Creek and then flows into the mighty Fraser.
Authorities have tried to treat the leachate in ponds, located partly on First Nations land, before it can reach the river, but the strategy has so far been ineffective.
Alex said the district once promised to have the landfill closed by 1990, but regulations kept changing and the operation carried on.
In 2009, the Ministry of Environment stepped in and began sending letters demanding that Hope clean up its act.
But John Fortoloczky, Hope’s Chief Administrative Officer, said it’s not so simple.
“The District of Hope has put in significant efforts to treat leachate,” Fortoloczyky said, adding that closing the landfill “will cost a lot of money.”
And the Hope landfill isn’t the only offender. CTV News has learned that three out of five landfills in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are out of compliance with environmental rules.
Landfills in Mission and Boston Bar get failing grades, while dumps in Delta and Chilliwack meet standards.
Hope officials have made improvements at their landfill, by lowering the levels of ammonia and iron flowing into the river, but they remain too high. Councillors say closing the dump is a priority, but it won’t happen for a few years.
The landfill will reach its lifespan in 2022; Chief Andy Alex hopes he won’t have to wait that long.
“It hurts,” he said. “Hurts all of us.”
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee