Composting in action

A composting operation in Moncton, N.B.

A years-long effort to build a regional compost facility was unearthed Thursday, as local politicians agreed to spend $50,000 to study the feasibility of such a facility at the Okanagan Falls and Campbell Mountain landfills.

The move came after the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen abandoned the effort in 2018 when the previous board rejected two earlier proposed sites based on public opposition: the Summerland landfill and a private property in Marron Valley.

There’s particular interest in the Campbell Mountain option now, though, because a consultant in August recommended the City of Penticton build a new, enclosed compost facility to handle biosolids from its wastewater treatment plant.

The cost of that facility is estimated at $11 million, while the cost of a larger regional facility, which would take everything from residential food scraps to yard waste, was previously projected to cost in the range of $20 to $50 million.

RDOS operations manager Andrew Reeder told the board Thursday it would be possible to build a combined facility to share costs for equipment like odour control, truck scales and the like.

“We believe that there are actually very large economies of scale by working with the City of Penticton lo look at solutions,” said Reeder.

As envisioned, the facility would serve RDOS Areas B, D, E, F, G, I, plus Penticton.

RDOS chief administrative officer Bill Newell said the organization is also considering another compost facility at the Oliver landfill to serve other parts of the region.

RDOS staff will now work with colleagues at the City of Penticton to make sure the feasibility study meets both local governments’ needs.

While a regional compost facility would cost tens of millions of dollars, it’s expected to pay off by extending the life of local landfills by diverting organic waste, which makes up about 40% of what’s currently being dumped. It would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing organic waste that’s buried with regular trash and produce high-quality compost for agricultural use.

As of February 2018, the RDOS estimated it had spent $400,000 studying the concept of a regional compost facility since 2013.