Nelson council has approved a one-year rezoning for a household hazardous waste depot run by the Nelson Leafs Hockey Society and funded by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
The depot will be located at the current Leafs bottle depot in Railtown, in an area currently zoned for mixed-use residential and commercial, not industrial use. The rezoning is temporary because the Leafs are seeking another location in a more suitable neighbourhood.
The temporary rezoning would have been approved in December but council asked for a flood mitigation plan in light of the proximity of the facility to Cottonwood Creek.
The hazardous material containers will be double-walled tanks inside modified, ventilated sea containers. The site would be overseen by trained staff, and it would be locked after hours and have a security camera.
The site would be for household chemical waste only, not commercial, and storage would be for only a few weeks before it is picked up.
At council’s Feb. 4 meeting, Jeff Wright of the Leafs and consultant Nicole Ward of 9dot Engineering presented a flood mitigation plan to council.
It includes the following provisions:
• The amount of hazardous material stored onsite will be reduced during peak spring creek flow;
• The collection contractor will be prepared to pick up material from the site on 24 hours notice;
• The program may be suspended in the event of a flood or high flood risk;
• The containers will be elevated 0.2 meters above the ground.
Councillor Jesse Woodward was concerned the depot clashes with Cottonwood Market and the park. Before his election to council Woodward managed the West Kootenay EcoSociety’s markets including the one at Cottonwood.
“Cottonwood Park is becoming this beautiful space and the market is a big part of it,” Woodward said, “and this clash of used oil and toxic materials 50 to 100 feet from that, it’s a challenge for me. That area is not meant for this.”
Councillors Janice Morrison and Keith Page were also concerned that short term could become long term.
“This kind of use does not fit the vision of Railtown,” Morrison said, referring to the city’s Nelson Railtown Sustainable Neighbourhood Action Plan.
Page said the area is supposed to support such uses as “cafes, walkability, and live-work. This could be a project that has nowhere to go for a decade or more.”
Despite this reluctance, a majority of council members voted in favour of the rezoning.
Ward said the containers will not be visible from the market side.
“It will be controversial wherever it goes,” she said. “It will be operated diligently with great care. We are not winging it, this has been planned for over a year, it is not something we take lightly.”
Wright, who told council he is a vendor of organic food at the market, assured council the Leafs understand the problem and are working hard to find an alternative location.
“We want it to be accessible and convenient but also respectful of the area,” he said. “The vision is a one-stop shop for all materials, and we are working with all the parties to try and find it. It is hard to find something that would not have a not-in-my-backyard response. You just have to go down there and see how safe it actually is.”
Wright said the Leafs would like to find a location to create an EcoDepot that would handle a variety of other materials that cannot be included in Nelson’s curbside pick-up such as glass and styrofoam.
Councillor Brittny Anderson said, “We are fortunate we have the Leafs to take this on. Few other organizations would have done this. If we want to go forward with this we have to accept that this will be the collection spot until another is found. We are lucky that we have this as an option.”
Councillor Rik Logtenberg said waste should not be hidden.
“Putting waste in front of us is good, we should see it. The tendency to hide it away helps to increase our consumption. Even in a market context it is an opportunity to educate: what is this, where did it come from, where will it go?”
City manager Kevin Cormack put the facility in the larger context of overall flood control in Nelson.
He said a flood risk assessment is being developed for the whole city and the RDCK is doing this for every creek.
There are individual car dealerships in town handling used oil, Cormack added, and “CP Rail is bringing dangerous goods through our city and they are in the same flood plain. So we will take a holistic approach to this.”