Aquilinis eye compost facility in Pitt Meadows

Concerns raised over truck traffic, water safety, smell

The compost processing facility would consist of two hectares

The compost processing facility would consist of two hectares

A two-hectare compost plant could be coming to the Pitt Polder area of Pitt Meadows, along with an increase in heavy truck traffic.

Golden Eagle Ranch Inc., part of the Aquilini family’s vast local holdings, is seeking to build the plant to produce compost for its nearby cranberry farms, as well as for use at a mushroom farm in Abbotsford.

That means there could be an increase of heavy truck traffic on Pitt Meadows streets, said Pitt Meadows Mayor Don MacLean.

“This is problematic, in my mind,” he said.

Heavy truck traffic from the Pitt River Quarry has caused significant damage to local roads, requiring the city to charge the quarry for road maintenance under an “Extraordinary Traffic Agreement.”

City staff is requesting Golden Eagle sign a similar agreement to offset maintenance costs, as well as pay for upgrades to Middleton Road, so it can accommodate the trucks.

The compost processing facility would consist of two hectares, with a 6,300-square-metre covered structure – larger than a football field.

Golden Eagle estimates the plant will generate close to 23,500 tonnes of compost annually. The site would also include a 3,550-cubic-metre, lined “goody pond” to collect compost leachate.

Plans call for the plant to built on a 15-centimetre-thick concrete pad to help eliminate harmful leachate from seeping into the surrounding water table.

The site is a few hundred metres south of the Pitt Polder Ecological Reserve, an 88-hectare wetland that serves as an important feeding ground for migratory birds.

Diana Williams, president of the Pitt Polder Preservation Society, said she has a number of concerns about the proposed plant.

“I’m worried about leaching, if that is going to be an issue, and if there is any guarantee it won’t get into … the water,” she said. “They will also have to put in heavy duty roads for the trucks, and that’s a concern.”

Williams is also concerned about the amount of water the plant would use.

Because the proposed structures are considered “high-hazard industrial,” they will require sprinkler systems that will be hooked to pumps drawing water from nearby water courses.

Golden Eagle downplayed concerns about odour that nearby residents may have.

“The location for the facility has been selected for its optimal distance away from any resident housing or farming operations,” states the site plans Golden Eagle Ranch Inc. submitted to the City of Pitt Meadows. “Also, with the facility located north of our golf course, we have a vested interest in developing an odour management program.”

Golden Eagle contends the compost plant will also allow it to use fewer chemicals and less water in farming operations.

To make the compost, the plant would use wheat straw from Washington State, manure from the nearby Golden Eagle Ranch or Ridge Valley Farm in Abbotsford, as well as gypsum powder from Alberta.

The compost would be shipped to a mushroom farm in Abbotsford for use there, then shipped back for use in Golden Eagle’s cranberry farms.

The plant needs approval from the Agricultural Land Commission, as the property lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve, and is considered a non-farm use.

The plant’s application to the Agricultural Advisory Committee notes the gypsum used would not be recycled from drywall, but from mined sources, and that no hazardous materials would be used in the compost.

City staff supports the non-farm use application, subject to conditions, as the plant will “compliment local and regional agricultural business.”

Pitt Meadows council was to discuss the matter at its committee meeting Tuesday.

Residents of Botanie Valley, north of Lytton, recently banded together against a similar facility planned there, forming the Botanie Valley Advisory Committee to protest the project over concerns about groundwater and odour from the plant.

“BVAC wishes to help protect the valley as a homeland, a traditional food and medicine gathering area, and an example of humanity living in nature with minimal negative impact on the land,” states the BVAC website. “Many of us feel that bringing tens of thousands of tonnes of other people’s waste from other communities to our valley would be an affront to the land, the First Nations traditional gathering and hunting grounds, and to our dignity.”

Golden Eagle Ranch Inc. did not return requests for an interview by press deadline.