The owner of an Abbotsford garbage and recycling facility is vowing to have the site cleaned up by the end of February after a Ministry of Environment inspection found several toxic chemicals escaping into a nearby watercourse.
Capt’n Crunch Recycling owner Rochelle Pemble said the massive pile of trash at her business on Vye Road will shrink next month as she plans to start shipping garbage to the United States. The business is also in the process of constructing better sorting facilities for recyclable materials, as well as a new drainage pad for its auto recycling operations to prevent runoff during rainstorms.
“We’re extremely committed to making this a full recycling facility and addressing the issues,” said Pemble. “We’re working hard, but it’s been a big job.”
Pemble and her husband took over management of the family company about two-and-a-half years ago. The auto wrecker was started in 1971, while the waste transfer station was added about 14 years ago.
“Regulations were different back then,” she said. “A lot of stuff used to be buried.”
On a typical day, dozens of vehicles, some towing trailers filled with construction materials, drop off waste at the business, which takes green waste, food waste, demo and roofing debris, some drywall, insulation, wood, dirt, mattresses, concrete and campers, as well as “general garbage,” according to its website. Excavators can be seen working atop towering piles of debris.
In June of last year, a fire started in a car and destroyed all the buildings on site before it could be contained.
According to a copy of a Ministry of Environment inspection report obtained by Postmedia, inspectors visited Capt’n Crunch in both May and June last year after receiving a complaint that the garbage stored onsite could be polluting nearby watercourses. No runoff was observed from the garbage, but during the June inspection runoff was seen leaving the site’s vehicle-dismantling area and flowing into a ditch. The ditch eventually runs into Szeliga Brook.
Testing of the runoff found elevated levels of several toxic chemicals, some of which were carcinogenic, including benzopyrene.
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said Capt’n Crunch will be “prioritized” for a follow-up inspection this winter. Inspectors are also coordinating with the City of Abbotsford to inspect the waste transfer station to see if it is discharging anything into the environment during the wettest months of the year.
The business could be “subject to escalating enforcement action” if corrective measures are not taken to address the concerns identified in June, said the inspection report.
Environmental advocate John Vissers said the watercourse behind Capt’n Crunch is a diverted brook that flows into a salmon-bearing stream. Frogs, eels, stickleback and several other species live in the brook and “rely on clean water to survive there,” he said.
Vissers said he believes the city’s transfer stations are “willfully ignoring waste diversion policies to increase profits.”
The environmentalist said he’s spoken to tradespeople who use Capt’n Crunch because there’s minimal hassle over sorting materials.
“We don’t seem to have the regulatory controls requiring big commercial transfer stations to comply,” he said.
Asked if the City of Abbotsford had concerns about the unsightly pile of garbage, spokesperson Alex Mitchell said the city is “aware of the site and is working with other levels of government as well as WorkSafeBC to ensure compliance with regulations.”
The city recently conducted an inspection, she said, but she was unable to provide specific information about concerns or what will be done to mitigate them before Postmedia’s deadline.
Capt’n Crunch received its waste transfer licence from the Fraser Valley Regional District, but director of regional programs Barclay Pitkethly said the district is only involved on the “front end” and doesn’t have the authority to conduct inspections or ensure compliance with regulations.
Asked if there is a shortage of sites in the Fraser Valley capable of taking waste, Pitkethly said the region has adequate capacity between the Mission and Chilliwack landfills, as well as two transfer stations in Abbotsford.
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