Golden resident Andrea Weissenborn is speaking out about environmental concerns at the Golden Landfill, citing previous non-compliance with Ministry of Environment standards and her belief that the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) is knowingly not complying as required.
Weissenborn, whose property directly neighbours the landfill, says her primary concern is groundwater contamination, as the landfill is unlined. A ‘liner’ is a continuous layer of material placed beneath and at the sides of a landfill to restrict the escape of waste from the landfill.
The landfill was found to be non-compliant by the ministry on Aug. 7, 2021, for not informing the ministry of surfacing leachate, a contaminated liquid that runs off from the landfill, as well as for not implementing the construction of surface water infrastructure in the timeline outlined by the ministry.
Weissenborn’s concerns are shared by Wildsight Golden, a local environmental advocacy group.
“The fact that it’s located above the town and the possibility of toxic material to filter down into the aquifer and potentially into our water sources has always been a big concern for us,” said Meg Langley, a biologist working with Wildsight.
“These are serious issues for Golden residents, but also wildlife health, with what the deer and the birds are eating.”
Langley says that there’s been evidence of toluene in the wells around the landfill, a toxic substance, which she says points to clear problems with toxins leaching from the dumpsite.
Weissenborn adds that the proximity of the landfill to the town aquifer should be a concern to everyone.
“Just because the Golden dump is not affecting town drinking water wells right now doesn’t mean it won’t in the future and this doesn’t mean that it’s okay to contaminate groundwater anywhere else in the Noth Bench area,” said Weissenborn.
The CSRD has also been found to be non-compliant by the ministry for not preventing and properly cleaning off-site litter, as well as for not operating the landfill to minimize the attraction of wildlife.
However, the CSRD has made improvements to combat environmental challenges at the landfill site, according to the 2021 annual report.
These changes include the development of a water quality improvement plan that involved the drilling of an additional monitoring well. The CSRD states that this will provide early notification of any changes to groundwater composition that could impact the Town of Golden’s water supply.
The report also claims that $130,000 had been invested towards improving drainage with the development of a series of rock-lined trenches.
“In 2021, we completed the majority of the surface water management upgrades, upgraded the entire electric fence from 5’ to 8’ to try and mitigate wildlife interactions and worked with our contractor to conduct more frequent litter collection,” said Ben Van Nostrand, Team Leader of Environmental Health Services for the CSRD.
“We’ve submitted the water quality improvement plan and await direction from the ministry on the next steps.”
However, Weissenborn and Langley both feel these improvements don’t go far enough. Langley cites an incident earlier in April, where she saw a deer harmlessly pass through what was supposed to be an electrified fence.
She notes while they’ve put up nets to catch litter that blows onto her property, it does nothing to stop the wildlife like deer and ravens from surpassing those measures and continuing to drop garbage, such as adult diapers and used sanitary products, onto her property.
Langley says that simple changes such as a composting program or increased recycling would help limit the amount of garbage brought to the landfill, with similar programs already running at the Revelstoke and Salmon Arm landfills.
While Van Nostrand says that the CSRD is looking for ways to add options at the landfill for recycling, but has no plans to establish a composting program on-site due to ‘neighbourhood concerns regarding odour and litter’.
“We will be working with a few groups in the community in 2022 to see if there’s an option to partner with a better-situated site for a food waste composting facility,” said Van Nostrand.
There is also the option of a transfer station to haul material to the Revelstoke landfill composting facility.
The Ministry of Environment is planning to conduct another inspection of the Golden Landfill this upcoming summer. The inspection report will be publicly posted once it is completed.
All inspection reports and outcomes of inspections are posted on the Natural Resource Compliance and Enforcement Database.
Currently, the landfill is schedule to be closed just under 60 years from now in 2080.