Changes are likely coming in the new year in the way waste at risk of containing asbestos is collected at landfills, with more onus on haulers to prove the contents of which they are disposing.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has for more than a decade had rules in place at landfills for accepting materials identified by customers as containing asbestos. However, there has been no policy in place regarding materials that may contain asbestos, such as construction materials that have not been tested, declared or even known of by the hauler.
“If, currently, they say, ‘No, it doesn’t contain asbestos,’ they’re able to drop it off,” TNRD manager of environmental services Jamie Vieira told KTW. “We’re saying maybe that’s not good enough. It’s not all garbage. We’re talking about at-risk material like drywall, et cetera.”
The hazardous material is widely prevalent in older buildings, specifically in insulation, having been used prior to present-day knowledge of its long-term health affects, including death.
Though the material has been banned in new construction for many years, the challenge with asbestos arises from situations like demolition or home renovations in buildings built before the bans were in place.
In the TNRD, asbestos materials are accepted at two landfills: Mission Flats in Kamloops and the Lower Nicola location in Merritt.
Vieira said the rules are clear when it comes to disposal, with advanced approval for special handling required. However, in recent years, more awareness has been raised regarding potential risks of demolition, renovation and construction waste that may contain asbestos. A Kamloops resident recently spoke of potential risks, but Vieira said the changes were not a result of those concerns being brought forward.
“It is related to WorkSafe orders that other regional districts have received in the past number of years,” Vieira said.
Rules vary from community community. The City of Vancouver, for example, has banned disposal of drywall from all businesses and only accepts small amounts from residents. Other areas require testing, with untested loads treated as containing asbestos, including steep disposal fees.
The TNRD aims to strike a balance with proposed changes, maintaining an affordable rate while protecting workers and the public. The TNRD board recently endorsed moving ahead with new procedures.
Vieira said staff will now develop detailed procedures and train staff, with changes to be implemented in January. The TNRD plans to create a communications plan to help explain the impending changes to the public.