The Nelson Leafs want to run a household hazardous waste depot at their current site near Cottonwood Creek. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson Leafs, regional district plan full-time hazardous waste recycling depot

City requires flood-mitigation plan before one-year trial can begin

Acids, adhesives, aerosol containers, automotive paints, chemicals, cleaning products, oil filters, fertilizers, kerosene, and mercury. You might have some of these things in your garage or basement. Maybe you want to dispose of them. But where?

The Nelson Leafs and the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) want to help you do this safely.

They are planning a year-long, six-day-a-week depot at the Leafs’ current recycling depot in Railtown for the collection and handling of household hazardous waste.

Current zoning for that neighbourhood won’t allow it, as it’s zoned for mixed-use residential and commercial. However, council decided at its Monday meeting to grant an exemption from zoning for one year as a trial period, but not until the Leafs come up with a flood-mitigation plan that describes how they will avoid chemicals getting into the water if Cottonwood Creek floods.

If after a year of operation the waste depot works out, the Leafs could then apply to the city for permanent rezoning.

“Rural communities find themselves greatly under-serviced,” Nicole Ward of 9dot Engineering, hired by the Leafs, told council on Monday. “So if you want to change your oil in your yard, you have nowhere to take your oil and you are stuck housing it in your shed or garage for months until a roundup comes. Or you miss the round up and it’s two or three years gone by with the material on your property.”

Hazardous waste roundups are run by the RDCK once a year. In 2017, demand for the Nelson roundup was so great that a number of residents had to be turned away and a second event was held.

Ward acknowledged that it is difficult to predict how much material would be brought in because it is unknown how much is sitting on residents’ properties, being taken to the landfill or ending up in the sewage treatment plant.

The RDCK has agreed to fund the depot for three years, with an option to renew, if the city rezones the area.

Councillor Jesse Woodward is concerned about flooding and the depot’s proximity to the Cottonwood market.

“There would be a toxic unit 100 feet from the market during operations, where organic food is being sold and children are running around,” Woodward said. “Also, if we have a heavy runoff we could easily have a flood down there, it could sweep right past where this unit will be, and right back into the lake.”

Ward explained that the hazardous material containers would be double-walled tanks inside a modified, ventilated sea can. The site would be overseen by trained staff, and after hours it would be locked and have a security camera.

Jeff Wright, vice president of the Leafs, told council that the site would be for household waste only, not commercial, and that storage would be for only a few weeks before it is picked up. He said it would be possible to arrange to have no material there during the few weeks of the spring melt.

City manager Kevin Cormack said flooding in the area would be predictable.

“The thing about floods is that you have a lot of notice,” he said. “You don’t get flash floods here, so you would not worry about this every year.”

Councillor Cal Renwick said that, as the former owner of Nelson Toyota, he is familiar with issues of used oil and antifreeze in close proximity to Cottonwood Creek.

“The last time Cottonwood Creek flooded was 1964. But I am not saying it is not going to happen. Knowing what I know about what goes on in shops of car dealerships, you would have a huge problem with water flowing through the shop at Nelson Ford, not so much what I see here, where you’ve got containers inside containers,” he said.

Renwick said he supports the Leafs’ project.

“I say good on you. A lot of that stuff is probably going where we don’t want it to go as it stands right now.”

Nelson Fire and Rescue were consulted about the issue in advance of the meeting and expressed several concerns in addition to flooding. Namely, it may be difficult for the staff to distinguish between commercial and household waste; people may drop off products after hours without proper product identification; the site is close to a storm drain; and the site could be overwhelmed with dropoffs from around the larger region.

Wright said he is working with the city to deal with all these issues.

As for zoning, the site is currently zoned MU3 (Railtown mixed-use residential and commercial). This was decided in 2016 as part of the Nelson Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan, which mandates that development in the neighborhood blend sensitively with the market and Cottonwood Falls Park.

Wright told the Star after the meeting that he expects the required flood control plan to be completed in time for council’s January meeting.

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