Fisher Road wants to expand composting operation

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Fisher Road Recycling owner Dave Laing wants folks to understand his organic-waste treatment operation isn’t the smelly, water-tainting culprit some believe.

He explained odours are contained inside his Cobble Hill operation and any liquid run-off that could potentially taint the area aquifer is also captured and recycled.

“I’ve removed myself from the natural ground,” he told the News Leader Pictorial after Monday’s public meeting about his application to boost volumes from 10,980 tonnes annually to 18,000 under his regional permit. “The environment ministry also watches us.”

Laing said his provincial treatment permit allowed treating 18,000 tonnes when he bought Fisher in 2006, but the CVRD later reduced that volume to 10,980.

A decision — after public input ending April 18 — about bumping Fisher’s regional-permit volume back to the original 18,000 rests with Brian Dennison, Cowichan Valley Regional District’s engineering services manager, although Laing can appeal Dennison’s decision to the CVRD board.

Laing has spent some $3 million upgrading his treatment system. Bob McDonald, CVRD’s recycling boss, seemed impressed with Fisher’s system — built on concrete pads, and using indoor treatment with biofilters straining odours.

McDonald composting operations neighbouring Fisher may be producing a stink Fisher may be unfairly blamed for.

“The feeling in the room (during Monday’s meeting) was that all odours were the fault of Fisher Road,” but CVRD investigations point to a nearby yard-waste business, McDonald said.

“Yard waste can be very odorous, especially if not turned properly.”

Pads and runoff systems keep Fisher’s fluids — after taking and treating kitchen scraps, yard waste and more — from draining into Cobble Hill’s aquifer, which regional studies show is nitrate-high.

“That (nitrate) problem has been there (aquifer) for a long time,” Laing said, citing what he believes is farm-fertilizer contamination.

McDonald is comfortable Fisher is not responsible for nitrate issues.

“It didn’t seem clear (during Monday’s meeting) this facility (Fisher) has disconnected from the aquifer,” he said of Fisher’s pad facility. “No seepage can get into the groundwater.”

Laing said he doesn’t plan on taking any septic biosolids at Fisher, though wording in his CVRD amendment application includes treatment of septic wastes and other odiferous stuff.

“I have absolutely no desire to accept any biosolids at this time.”

The initial CVRD reduction of Fisher’s volume to 10,980 sparked Laing to launch a court appeal that remains ongoing. McDonald and Laing signalled the legal appeal would basically be redundant if Dennison grants the volume hike to 18,000 tonnes.

Laing processes some organic waste from private south-end haulers. He has processed wastes from Victoria and area, but recently inked a five-year deal to take Saanich’s organics that started arriving Wednesday.

Monday’s meeting, attended by about 80 citizens in CVRD headquarters, was chaired by a hired moderator, something CVRD Chairman Rob Hutchins said isn’t unusual.

Dennison’s decision-making process is steered by the CVRD’s waste-management bylaw whereby license amendments are handled by staff, he explained.

“Politics aren’t part of it. (Dennison’s) supposed to make a decision based on technical grounds.”

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