Plans are underway to clean up tens of thousands of old rubber tires at a derelict recycling plant on Crown land near Tseshaht First Nation territory, B.C. Minister of Forests Steve Thomson said.
The plan will see the tires chipped up by tire recycler Western Rubber Group then sold to Catalyst’s mill in Port Alberni as winter hog fuel supplement. The initiative is tentatively slated to start early in the new year.
The initiative doesn’t have a price tag yet. But the cost will be offset by Catalyst’s purchase of chipped rubber hog fuel. “This is by far the cheapest option for the province,” a ministry spokesperson said.
Catalyst entered the picture in the summer and discussions have been ongoing, the spokesperson said.
According to Catalyst, hog fuel is woodchips burned to create steam used in the mill’s paper making process. Shredded rubber tire is added to the mix in the winters when hog fuel is damp. Catalyst environmental manager Larry Cross confirmed that tires from the dump are being looked at but that the plan will have challenges.
The mill mostly uses car and truck tires which are easy to process. But many of the dump tires were used on massive earth moving machines. “I don’t know who in the province has the capability to process those,” Cross said.
The large tires wouldn’t be left to waste. They could be split in half and used as a base in the nearby regional district landfill, the ministry spokesperson said. Further discussions with regional district officials were slated to take place this week after the News deadline.
ACRD Chief Operating Officer Russell Dyson confirmed that preliminary talks have taken place with a Tseshaht representative present, and that a verbal report was given to directors at their Oct. 24 meeting.
The talks are preliminary and the ACRD already has questions. “The property isn’t a regional district site, nor is it operated by the regional district,” Dyson said. “But there is a cost to handling anything at the landfill, both in terms of space it would take up and taking it.”
Some of the tires are nearly two decades old but this shouldn’t be an issue, Cross said. “It’s rubber and it lasts,” he said. Many of the tires at the dump are laden with sand and dirt, but they could still be used as long as they are screened thoroughly and meet the mill’s processing standard, Cross said.
In August, the Tseshaht complained to the ministry about a 10-acre abandoned tire dump located near its reserve and on Crown land. The tires were a fire and environmental hazard, chief councillor Hugh Braker said.
The province allowed the tire dump to be created in first place, therefore the province should clean it up, Braker said. But the province balked, saying the dump was environmentally sound and subsequently not a priority to clean up.
While cleanup wasn’t a priority, finding a solution to the issue went on behind the scenes for at least two years. Only recently did it crest into something newsworthy, the ministry spokesperson said.
Tseshaht Chief Operating Officer Cindy Stern said the tribe has been involved in talks, and also organized a tour of the site for ACRD directors, but that she wasn’t sure where discussions were at.
“This may have taken a great leap forward since we last talked,” she said. “We want the site cleaned up and we’re hopeful we can accomplish that.”