Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and all six city councillors managed to shut out the opposition to hazardous waste recycling on the shores of the Fraser River

Story by the Chilliwack Times on February 6th, 2014:

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and all six city councillors managed to shut out the growing din of opposition to hazardous waste recycling on the shores of the Fraser River on Tuesday.

Approximately 30 people attended the afternoon portion of Tuesday’s meeting where a rezoning bylaw to allow for the facility was unanimously given fourth reading-essentially a legislative formality-by council.

Opposition to the location-between 100 and 200 metres away from the Fraser River on a Cannor Road property in the Cattermole Lands-has come from more than 20 environmental, sports fishing and First Nations organizations as well as from MLAs, both BC Liberal and NDP.

Ontario-based Aevitas Inc. asked council to rezone the property from heavy industrial to special industrial to allow for the plant that, each month, will recycle 5,000 litres of transformer oil containing PCBs and 500,000 lamps containing mercury.

A day before the final approval, BC Liberal MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Doug Bing, sent a letter to Gaetz in which he said he found the location of the proposed plant “to be fraught with hazard.”

“I hope that you and your council will delay passage of this proposal until a second look is taken and hopefully a better location is found for it,” said the letter, written by a staffer on behalf of Bing.

Bing suggested that because his constituency is not far downstream from Chilliwack, the area “could be negatively impacted by such an endeavour.”

On Tuesday, NDP environment critic, and MLA for Vancouver-West End, Spencer Chandra Herbert came to Chilliwack to visit the site of the facility and meet with opponents.

Chandra Herbert said hearing about the plant so close to the banks of the Fraser River got his attention.

“I don’t see how siting a facility with toxins like this right next to the Fraser is a good idea,” he told the Times Monday.

He said he has arranged to speak with the proponent, Ontario-based Aevitas Inc., this week about why the particular Cannor Road site was chosen. Company president Byron Day has twice declined requests by the

Times to comment on why this property was chosen.

When asked for his opinion on the site, Chilliwack MLA John Martin told the Times that because the provincial government had not yet received an application, and because city hall environmental engineers found it to be a suitable site, he isn’t in a position to say what’s too close to the river.

“There is no rubber stamp here,” he said. “It has to go through the very detailed environmental review and process just like any application.”

While he did not want to weigh in on the site, Martin does not think Bing doing so was inappropriate.

“We are all elected to basically hear out the concerns of the constituents, and I’m assuming a constituent went to him with concerns and he did what he judged the right thing to do,” Martin said.

After council’s vote on Tuesday, B.C. Federation of Drift Fishers president Rod Clapton said the coalition of groups opposed to the site will now turn their attention to higher levels of government.

“This is certainly just the first step,” he said. “From here we progress to the provincial and federal level. Obviously it would appear that Chilliwack council is not concerned about the health of the Fraser River.. .. We do have a plan in place and it’s full speed ahead as far as opposing this thing.”

The coalition of groups opposed to the plant received a legal opinion from West Coast Environmental Law, which was forwarded on to city council on Tuesday. The letter deemed the notice of public hearing to be inadequate for the rezoning.

In his opinion, Andrew Gage wrote that the advertisements about the public hearing showed an “oddly cropped” map so that the Fraser River did not appear. He also noted that nowhere in the public notice was there mention that the facility would handle hazardous waste.

“I would recommend that the City of Chilliwack not proceed with fourth reading of the bylaw at this time, and instead publish a new public notice and re-open public hearings in respect of the bylaw,” Gage wrote.

© Chilliwack Times

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