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Hartland Landfill expansion plans rile neighbouring residents

Willis Point residents are pushing back against a proposed plan to expand the garbage pit at Hartland Landfill over the next 80 years.
Expansion plan for Hartland Landfill.

Willis Point residents are pushing back against a proposed plan to expand the garbage pit at Hartland Landfill over the next 80 years.

The draft plan calls for extensive rock blasting and removal, shifting traffic patterns and the loss of nearly 30 hectares of forest within the site’s boundaries.

Residents say they were never properly consulted on the proposed changes and that the Capital Regional District has downplayed the negative impacts on their neighbourhood.

“The true costs of this extensive quarrying and mining operation have been ignored,” Hugh Stephens told the CRD board.

“What is the long-term cost of the wear and tear on regional roads? What will be the cost of the additional [greenhouse gas] emissions? What will be the social costs on neighbouring communities and on regional residents seeking quiet enjoyment and access to parks?

“Once these costs are factored in this project results in major costs to the region, rather than being self-financing.”

Residents and some CRD directors say the district should be setting more aggressive targets to reduce waste and looking for other disposal methods rather than simply digging an ever larger hole.

“To me, that’s repeating the same mistake as what happened in the past, and to expect different results is the definition of insanity,” Highlands Mayor Ken Williams said.

CRD documents show that the landfill will be full by 2045 if people continue to dispose of garbage at the current rate. So the district is developing a plan to extend the landfill’s life to 2100 and beyond.

The plan includes strategies to reduce, recycle and divert waste from the landfill, but even with that, more landfill space will be needed as the population increases, the district says.

Officials are therefore proposing to expand the disposal area vertically and horizontally by blasting into rock that will have to be trucked off site — something that resident say will only add to traffic problems in the area.

In addition, the district says existing access to the landfill on Hartland Avenue “has steep and narrow sections that are challenging for larger trucks” so it’s proposing to shift that traffic – about 100 to 150 commercial trucks per day – to an entrance off Willis Point Road within a few years.

In the process of expanding the disposal area’s footprint, the district says nearly 30 hectares of forest will be cleared within Hartland Landfill’s boundary. Most of that work will happen more than 10 years from now, the district said. A number of mountain bike trails will be lost, but the CRD has said it’s working with bike groups to develop alternate trails.

CRD staff insist that proposed changes were shared with residents during the first phase of a “transparent” consultation process, and that there will be further opportunities for people to comment after the draft plan comes to the board this fall.

“This is the first step of creating a plan and there is no intent to hide anything from the pubic,” said Colin Plant, who chairs the CRD board.

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice urged calm at a meeting this week and noted there will be “many, many more days for us to have our fulsome debate around this table before any decisions are made.”

But some CRD directors want the district to back up and do a better job of consulting with the community before pushing ahead with a draft plan.

“The CRD – us – did not present the facts to our residents during the consultation process,” said Mike Hicks, who represents Willis Point residents as the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director. “As a result, the process … and the findings are seriously flawed.”