Yellow bags of asbestos may find their way to a Highlands landfill.
“Asbestos is only hazardous if it’s airborne,” said Reinhard Trautmann, facilities co-ordinator of Highwest Landfill. “You could eat it and not have a problem. You could mix it with water and drink it and be safe.”
Trautmann found metal tape in his home containing asbestos during recent renovations. He was careful to spray it with water before he removed and bagged it up. He will dispose of it at Hartland Landfill in Saanich, which accepts the hazardous material.
Highwest Landfill applied for a permit from the province to also dispose of asbestos, but the request has not been granted yet.
If granted, the facility would accept asbestos double bagged in identifiable yellow plastic. If the landfill starts to accept asbestos, Trautmann said most likely it would only be accepted on certain days and would have to be contained before it was brought on site.
Then the bags would be buried in a separate area of the landfill.
“It has to be double bagged no mater what,” Trautmann said. “Once it’s buried it’s fine. As long as you don’t inhale it through your nose (or mouth) you are fine.”
Many older home building supplies contain small amounts of asbestos including certain types of insulation, linoleum and counter tops. Even items containing one per cent asbestos have to be bagged and disposed of properly.
Highwest Landfill on Millstream Road, is provincially regulated and contracted out by the Capital Regional District. The facility is included in the CRD Solid Waste Management Plan and the CRD supported the asbestos disposal request.
At this time the facility isn’t allowed to accept any hazardous materials.
The landfill isn’t open to the public and is often the site where demolition materials are taken.
Before a demolished home can be brought to the site Trautmann requires approval from an environmental consultant ensuring there are no hazardous material in the load.
Trautmann says he follows this to a T, noting even the tape on drywall manufactured before 1984 contains asbestos.
“You have to prove to us that there are no materials that contain any hazardous materials,” Trautmann said, adding he has turned people away who did not have proper documentation.
The facility does not accept any liquids, tires or organic household waste.
There is an extensive water system on the property to ensure all storm water is piped to infiltrating ponds. Groundwater wells are monitored regularly as well.
“We are very conscious of the environment here,” Trautmann said. “Everything we do here is controlled.”
Most items brought to the landfill are sorted and recycled. Leftover items are buried in large rock pits lined with clay, stone and geotextile fabric. The pits are blasted out with explosives.
Council questions future
Highlands council was notified by the Capital Regional District about Highwest Landfill requesting a permit to start accepting asbestos. The private landfill run by Tervita is regulated provincially and the CRD contracts the company out.
Council asked district staff to create a report on the options available.
“Lots of stuff can be buried, but what will happen (later)?” asked Coun. Karel Roessingh. “We don’t need something like Millstream Meadows where in 50 years we’ll think ‘geez that needs to be cleaned up’.”
Mayor Jane Mendum also mentioned concerns, but said there are many items that contain asbestos and places are required for proper disposal.