Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)

Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

Saanich residents are reiterating their concerns after a workplace safety closure at a Richmond cement plant has caused months worth of biosolids to be redirected to the Hartland Landfill.

The disposal of biosolids, or processed human waste, has been at the heart of a decade-long debate in Greater Victoria. In 2011, following public concern, the Capital Regional District (CRD) banned the land application of biosolids. But last year, after discovering the Lafarge cement plant – where biosolids are now normally shipped – closes for four to six weeks a year, the CRD reversed its ban to allow for biosolids (700 tonnes) to be spread at the Hartland Landfill during that period of time.

At the time, there was significant opposition to the plan by people concerned about possible water and air contamination and who criticized the CRD for coming up with a “quick fix” rather than looking for more sustainable options.

RELATED: Capital Regional District approves land use for sewage biosolids

But no one was given the chance to oppose the latest spreading of biosolids as the decision was never made public. Biosolids have been getting redirected to the Hartland Landfill since late November when a workplace death closed the Lafarge plant. CRD senior manager of the environmental protection division Glenn Harris said they expect Lafarge will start receiving the biosolids again by the end of March. In that case, Hartland will have spread biosolids on the landfill for approximately four months – four times what it allotted for in a year.

Whether that could pose any kind of risk to human or environmental health is up for debate. The Class A biosolids being spread are the result of human waste undergoing several treatment processes in accordance with provincial standards. The landfill is using them as a “nutrient additive” to improve vegetation growth in reforested areas and as a biocover to reduce methane emissions. In many places around the world, biosolids are used as fertilizer on agricultural land but that practice is not permitted on food crops in B.C.

But, critics point out the potential impacts of many of the substances present in biosolids are not well understood yet. All manner of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hormones, pathogens, bacteria and heavy metals end up down the toilet alongside human waste. Often, these substances are present in such small quantities that researchers have determined they don’t pose a threat to human or environmental health, but B.C. provincial standards don’t require the waste industry to test for all of them.

“Hartland is one of the least desirable places to do it (spread biosolids) because if there are problems there are residences quite close, there are farms, there are schools and also it’s the headwaters for Todd Creek,” said Hugh Stephens, vice-chair of the Mount Work Coalition.

But, as University of Victoria civil engineering professor Caetano Dorea pointed out, a landfill is about the safest place biosolids could be put. Dorea said landfills are already engineered to keep toxic substances – namely leachate – in. If groundwater was being contaminated, he said, the worry would be about the design of the landfill, not the biosolids sitting on it.

There have been a number of leaks at Hartland though, so it is possible future ones could include biosolids. Really, Stephens said, a main problem is the location of the landfill.

“It’s not in the middle of nowhere, it’s in a recreational area,” he said.

RELATED: Pipe leaks residual waste from Hartland Landfill into Saanich park

Still, Dorea said, if the landfill is running properly the risk of contamination is very low. He said it’s important that people are concerned, but warns against the “not in my backyard effect.” Human waste has to go somewhere.

Stephens argued there are better ways to be disposing of the biosolids though. He suggested spreading them in remote areas, like the District of Nanaimo does, or sending them to a biochar plant. At the very least, he said, the public should be aware of what’s going on and should be given a chance to intervene.

RELATED: Regional District of Nanaimo extends biosolids deal


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

CRD sewageSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This stretch of Highway 14 on Parkinson Hill near Port Renfrew is undergoing reconstruction following a road washout in 2018. (Ministry of Transportation photo)
22-hour Highway 14 road closure planned for Wednesday

Closure needed to install a temporary bridge structure near Port Renfrew

An Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island (XRVI) climate change event in 2019 saw a large crowd occupy the Johnson Street bridge. Black Press File Photo
Extinction Rebellion activists march from Vancouver to Victoria this weekend

The four-day trek ends at the B.C. legislature Monday, protest province’s environmental policy

At Tuesday’s Sooke council meeting, RCMP submitted a record showing the types of calls and incidents that were investigated within the district, which included a comparison from February 2021 to February 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Crime and calls to Sooke RCMP on the decline in February compared to 2020

Sooke RCMP share February investigation statistics

The hiring of out-of-province workers by the Canadian Red Cross to staff the vaccination centre in Langford has raised eyebrows. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Cross hires out-of-province workers to staff Langford vaccination centre

Staffer worries local jobs weren’t offered to local people

A rider crosses a “skinny” on the newly opened trail known as 90s Jank, built within the Hartland system by volunteers with the South Island Mountain Bike Society. (Youtube/MTB Matt)
Mountain bikers celebrate first new trail in years on Saanich’s Mount Work

90s Jank trail a product of licence agreement between CRD and mountain bike society

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Most Read