About the only thing local politicians seem to have buried after five years studying the concept of a regional compost facility is $400,000 in taxpayers’ money.
Estimates provided to The Penticton Herald by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen show staff have spent approximately 772 hours on the project since 2013. At a cost of roughly $35 an hour, that time was worth $27,000.
The local government also shelled out $376,000 to various consultants – $175,000 of which was covered by a federal grant – for a grand total of $402,000.
In exchange for that money, the public got studies of 20 proposed sites, and more in-depth work on the three top-ranked locations for the planned multi-million-dollar compost facility, which would include state-of-the-art technology to mitigate impacts on neighbours.
However, all three short-listed sites — including one south of Oliver on Black Sage Road — were ruled out by the RDOS board earlier this month due to a variety of concerns, including increased truck traffic and odour.
Still, the chairwoman of the board believes the $400,000 was money well spent.
“For me, this isn’t a dead issue. I would sort of refer to it as shelved at this time, because we have an election coming up,” said Karla Kozakevich, also the director for Area E (Naramata).
Besides newly elected directors after the municipal election in October, the months ahead could also bring an edict from the B.C. government requiring the RDOS to install a system to capture greenhouse gases from decomposing organic material buried at the Campbell Mountain Landfill.
Sending organic matter to a compost facility was intended in part to eliminate the need for such a system, which is estimated to cost anywhere from $20 to 50 million.
If a system is mandated, Ms. Kozakevich said, it could change people’s minds about a less costly compost facility, which would also extend the life of local landfills.
Or the RDOS could pursue smaller scale compost operations at local landfills and borrow from the studies already completed to date, she continued, “so the work still has value.”
RDOS solid waste co-ordinator Cameron Baughen, who led the compost drive, explained in an email that all reports and presentations have been added to the local government’s website and “remain available for any future projects or projects in other communities.”
— The Penticton Herald