A waste incinerator for South Surrey has been considered by city council, which was willing to sell land in north Campbell Heights to a developer interested in building a waste-to-energy facility there.
Aquilini Renewable Energy secured an option – which has since lapsed – to purchase 25 acres of city land near 32 Avenue and 196 Street in north Campbell Heights, subject to the site being approved for a regional waste incinerator.
Mayoral candidate Ross Buchanan said council approved the concept some time ago, and he's using it as one of his lead issues in the coming election.
Buchanan said he's pleased to hear the option has lapsed, but he has no doubt it will be back on the table after the election.
Some Surrey councillors said Tuesday they knew nothing about it, even though they were presented with the particulars in the summer.
"We sell property to many people for many things," said Coun. Barinder Rasode, adding she not aware of the incinerator plan but seems to remember something about the Aquilini sale.
"I'm vaguely aware of that," she said.
Coun. Linda Hepner said it's all news to her.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Hepner said. "I wouldn't support a waste-to-energy incinerator (in that area)."
However, The Leader has learned the option to purchase was presented to council behind closed doors in the spring.
John Negrin, president of Aquilini Renewable Energy, said the firm is at a very preliminary stage of locating a waste-to-energy plant.
"We've looked around the Lower Mainland at candidate sites," Negrin said. "The one at Campbell Heights could be a potential. It's an option for consideration that has not been executed."
Negrin pointed out the siting of a plant is entirely up to Metro Vancouver.
"This is their project and this is their decision."
Aquilini is also considering a site on Tsawwassen First Nation land.
Coun. Barbara Steele can't remember the discussion to offer Aquilini the property but said the majority of council is in favour of hosting an incinerator in this city.
"We want waste-to-energy in Surrey, there's no question about that," Steele said. "It's not unanimous, but I think most of us are willing to go for it."
She noted there would be exhaustive public consultation prior to giving an incinerator final approval.
"There's no question, there would be a public process in that, no question at all," Steele said.
She also noted with only one city council meeting left before the election, the decision will be up to the next elected council.
Coun. Bob Bose said he could not "confirm nor deny" any discussion that may have taken place regarding any property purchase.
"I can say the question of an incinerator in Campbell Heights for regional waste has definitely been discussed by council," Bose said, adding that discussion took place "in a formal way."
He said the discussion took place in the spring, but would not say whether a vote was cast.
He said he's strongly opposed to the location of an incinerator in Campbell Heights.
Mayor Dianne Watts said she needs to be careful with her comments because of closed council and land transactions, but said there was no use attached to the property that was approved by council.
"Anything they wanted to do on that land would have to go through a public process," Watts said.
She also pointed out the option on the property lapsed in September.
"So, the city owns that land and there's no options on it or anything else," Watts said.
Negrin said Metro will also decide what technology to use, adding there are many advanced waste-to-energy options that offer very low emissions compared to older mass-burn incinerators.
The province this summer approved Metro's solid waste plan, which lets the region pursue new plants to consume 500,000 tonnes of waste per year that would no longer be trucked to the Cache Creek regional landfill.
Several other firms also want to turn Metro's garbage into power, including Waste Management Inc. and Covanta, which operates the existing Burnaby incinerator and intends to start a new one at Gold River on Vancouver Island.
Fraser Valley politicians strongly oppose any in-region plant on air quality grounds, so shipping Metro garbage to Vancouver Island may ease those concerns.
A plant built in the region – particularly in a dense or industrialized area – may be more cost-effective because heat could be sold to nearby buildings.
Any new plant would ultimately have to be approved by the provincial government.
~with files from Jeff Nagel