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Brenda Renewables hopes to have all the paperwork in place to launch a major composting and energy generation program in 30 to 60 days.
If all goes to plan, the company will haul as much as 20,000 tonnes of organic waste a year up to the old Brenda Mine site above Peachland.
“Everybody in the Okanagan region wants to deal with their own problems and not export them elsewhere and still claim to be a sustainable community,” Rolfe Phillip, head of business development for Brenda Renewables, told iNFOnews.ca. “To be a sustainable community, you must be able to manage the not-so-nice outputs from the community.”
This project has been five years in the making but the need for it dates back decades.
Brenda Mine operated for 20 years, producing 278,000 tonnes of copper and 66,000 tonnes of molybdenum concentrate and employing 350 to 400 people before it closed in 1990.
It’s located 22 kilometres northwest of Peachland and is most visible as a grass-covered hillside on the Okanagan Connecter.
A company called Glencore Canada owns the site. Its job is to restore the land and deal with things like the water in the settling pond, a task that Phillip says will take 100 years or more. To date it has contoured and terraced extensive rock piles along with some seeding, fertilization and irrigation.
Part of their responsibility is to restore about 750 hectares of rock piles left behind by the mine.
That’s where Brenda Renewables, a partner company to Glencore, comes in.
“The main purpose for Glencore to jump into this with us is, they have a long-term commitment to revegetate the entire site,” Phillip said. “All our processes will generate more and more Class A compost to be applied to their 750 ha of rock piles. They have obligations to revegetate that over the next 50-odd years.”
Last week, the Regional District of Central Okanagan supported Brenda Renewables’ application to the province to lease the land for 30 years. They’ve already got a permit from the Ministry of Environment and consulted interest groups, local governments and First Nations, he said.
The plan is to start hauling things like grape skins from wineries and other organic waste to compost for the first year’s pilot project.
They will experiment with different soil depths and seed types, in consultation with their agrologist, to develop a more detailed plan of what is needed in the coming decades.
Grasses, shrubs and trees will be planted to restore the area to a natural state. But, that’s just a start.
The plan is to ramp up composting and put in an anaerobic digester, on existing building foundations. That’s projected to be built in the 2024-26 time period.
It speeds up the composting process but also produces renewable natural gas that can be sold to FortisBC. It’s projected to produce enough gas to supply 2,500 homes. It also subsidizes the operation.
READ MORE: FortisBC could be heating B.C. homes with gas from garbage by 2050
Phillip and Matthew Malkin, the company’s owner and chief operating officer, are a little sensitive to criticism after having the project portrayed by some as a sewage processing operation.
That could be a part of it but not in the early days and then only to a maximum of 20% of the material. Half of what they haul there to compost is expected to be yard and garden waste, 15% residential food waste and 15% agricultural waste.
The material will be collected from within a 100 km radius, meaning from Oliver to Merritt, with changes in how that material is collected expected to come over time.
Right now, household yard waste in the Central Okanagan is put into bins and hauled on garbage day to the Glenmore Landfill for composting. Phillip hopes to divert some of that to Brenda Mine.
Sewage waste from Kelowna is processed in Vernon and made into Ogogrow. The waste from the West Kelowna Sewage Treatment Plant is being hauled to Alberta, he said.
The West Kelowna contract is out on a request for proposals right now. Since Brenda Renewables doesn’t have all its permits in place, it can’t bid on this round but expects to be there next time so it can be processed closer to home.
There is no household food recycling program in the Central Okanagan but such programs are in place in other parts of B.C. and are expected to reach the Central Okanagan in the next few years. Vernon is starting a program in May and Kamloops has a pilot program underway.
READ MORE: 'We had no say': Not everyone pleased with Kamloops curbside organic waste pilot
If household food recycling is done in the Central Okanagan, Glenmore Landfill, which is within City of Kelowna boundaries, is a likely location for it to be composted.
“They’re talking about expanding composting and who knows what else and, I guarantee you, their odours are going to get worse and worse as more and more food waste finds its way into that yard and garden stream,” Phillip said.
He argued that the Brenda Mines site is preferable.
“No one wants these kinds of facilities in their backyard,” he said. “No one wants to be composting biosolids in their neighbourhood. So, here we have an ideal place, 20 km away. We have an absolute need for the generated organic matter on that site so there’s no trucks taking material off that site, generating more greenhouse gases.”
There will be truck traffic generated, about 650 to 675 a year, to haul 20,000 tonnes of material, or an average of two to three a day.
The plan is to have transfer stations from which large transport trucks – similar to the wood chip trucks currently on B.C. highways – will collect it and haul it up the Okanagan Connector, using the Brenda Mines exit.