BY BILL PHILLIPS
A decommissioned landfill, located 100 metres from a City of Prince George water well and 200 metres from the Fraser River, is likely leaching toxic materials into the groundwater, according to environmental studies commissioned by Brink Forest Products.
In addition, the covered-over landfill is at risk of exploding, according to the reports, prepared by Amec Foster Wheeler Environmental and Infrastructure from Nanaimo and Case Forensics from Washington State. Brink Forest Products released the reports Monday.
“In light of these two reports and the information they contain, I believe the public has a right to know what they are dealing with,” said John Brink, owner of Brink Forest Products, in a press release. “It is my moral and ethical duty to warn the public, which is the purpose of this press release.”
In 2005, Brink Forest Products signed a lease-to-purchase agreement for a 100-acre site in the BCR Industrial Park with BCR Properties. Brink Forest Products had planned to build a new two-line sawmill on the site, which would have employed 200 people, With the mill partially-built, construction came to a halt with the discovery of the landfill.
Amec Foster Wheeler Environmental and Infrastructure conducted a water quality analysis on the site in July, 2017 and Case Forensics provided an expert opinion regarding the hazards posed to public health and safety.
Water sampling conducted by Amec discovered various metals that exceed Canada Safety Regulation and British Columbia Approved Water Quality (BCAWQ) guidelines. “Groundwater results indicated elevated levels of arsenic, cobalt, iron, manganese, and sodium,” reads the report. “Elevated concentrations of dissolved manganese, exceeding BCAWQ guidelines were observed within the drainage ditch, which flows directly into the Fraser River.”
The Amec report also discovered the landfill was covered with pit-run sand and gravel, which, according to the report, provides minimal protection against surface water and air intrusion into the landfill. In addition, there are no leachate collection provisions at the landfill, meaning the leachate likely flows subsurface with the groundwater towards the Fraser River, the report concluded.
Modern landfill designs call for complete encapsulation of the landfill contents and the gas emissions and liquid effluent are collected and treated.
According to the Case Forensics report, the landfill materials are susceptible to spontaneous heating and ignition. This could result in a smouldering fire at the site, it stated. The report also determined the landfill materials are “undergoing decomposition and are producing combustible methane gas that could accumulate in ignitable mixtures that could produce an explosion and/or deflagration.”
Brink Forest Products launched a civil suit against BCR Properties in 2013. The company is suing BCR Properties for fraudulent misrepresentation, claiming BCR Properties had a duty to disclose the presence of the landfill, which created an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment; and that it failed to comply with its obligations under the Waste Management Act or the Environmental Management Act.
“There were three critical elements which would qualify a suitable site; it must be a minimum of 100 acres, it must have rail access and must be environmentally clean,” said Brink. “We identified such a site, which was a part of a former sawmill site. It met all my requirements. We started to build our new sawmill immediately in May of 2005.”
Over the course of this development, Brink says he has discovered many contamination issues in relation to the property, including the landfill that is 22 acres in size, approximately the equivalent of downtown Prince George, and in places 30 feet deep.
“I would find it hard to believe that BCR Properties, as an owner of the land, is not already aware of the danger to human health and fire hazard that exists due to the landfill and its toxic nature,” said Brink. “What’s more alarming is that if they did know, why have they not come forward and warned the public; especially considering the property’s close proximity to a city water well and fish habitat? This would have allowed the City of Prince George to apply appropriate measures to shut down the water intake and remove the landfill.”
BCR Properties’ director of real estate Richard Myhill-Jones said he was unaware of the issue and declined further comment.
“You’re best to talk to Mr. Brink, he seems to be the one with the information,” Myhill Jones said.