Residential waste at the Columbia Valley landfill has increased by 10.77 per cent this spring.

“We provide a distribution service, so we don’t provide actual curbside collection in those communities,” said Kevin Paterson, Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) environmental services manager. “We operate the rural transfer stations and our staff transfer stations in and around the region. We don’t service Radium directly, but we have a sanitation station at Brisco and Edgewater. There’s a transfer station outside of Fairmont, and another service community outside of Canal Flats.”

The Village of Radium Hot Springs currently does not offer curbside collection within the municipality because the bulk of the community currently utilizes the landfill or existing collection sites located at various condos.

“The condo association’s almost all have their own collection sites and pay for pickup,” Clara Reinhardt, mayor of Radium Hot Springs told the Pioneer via e-mail. “Some residential people have also chosen to hire a private contractor. The rest of us haul our own (waste) to a transfer site.”

The Village of Canal Flats did not respond to the Pioneer’s request for information before deadline, but their website indicates the community should utilize the RDEK’s transfer stations as opposed to offering curbside collection services.

Meanwhile, the District of Invermere (DOI) is not aware of any changes to the waste management stream locally, but there is a curbside collection program to help out residents.

“Because we use a contractor to pick up the residential garbage, we do not have any knowledge of the amounts they are collecting,” said Kindry Luyendyk, interim chief administrative officer at the DOI. “There are no current concerns with respect to waste management. We are switching to automated bins this fall.”

The Akisqnuk First Nation did not respond to the request for information about waste management programming in their community before the Pioneer went to press.

However, the Shuswap Indian Band (SIB) does not currently provide its members with curbside collection for garbage. But their team acknowledges that some SIB members hire contractors indepently for residential disposals.

In spite of the approach each community opts to take, the Columbia Valley landfill remains a high-traffic location for all residents of the East Kootenay region in the area.

“There’s nothing directly related to COVID, I would say, but interestingly enough, we’re seeing an increase in residential waste volume on rural sites because, anecdotally speaking, I think it’s because people are stuck at home and I think they’re just cleaning up the basement,” Paterson explained. “By and large, most of the increase we’re seeing is from other types of waste streams.”

For the months of January, February, March and May; the RDEK saw a surge in waste at the Columbia Valley landfill. The month of April remains an exception with slightly lower usage this spring compared to last spring.

In addition, the Inteior Health Authority’s spokesperson Karl Hardt indicates the amount of medical waste has not changed much in light of the safety precautions that encourage the frequent use of hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks during the pandemic.

“It’s not something we tracked specifically, but the hospital says they haven’t seen a measurable increase (they double-checked with housekeeping as well),” replied Hardt by e-mail. “Larger items like gowns and shields can be cleaned and reused, so we’d be just be talking about smaller items like masks and gloves.”

But for valley residents, an ongoing challenge at rural transfer stations, Paterson explained, is the fact that green waste is being disposed of in the wrong locations for diversion and creates additional work at unstaffed transfer stations.

“Green waste, or garden waste, should ideally go to the landfill to fill up rural bins, which has been a real headache,” Paterson explained. It’s always been a challenge, but it’s been exasperated this spring… That’s been frustrating.”

Paterson added garden waste or wood-based waste that’s brought to the Columbia Valley landfill needs to be diverted to mitigate the risk of methane production that contributes to global warming.

“Any organics in the landfill creates methane, which is not good, so we divert it,” said Paterson. “Typically, what we do in the fall, when it’s been diverted, it’s used in Skookumchuck’s cogeneration facility at the pulp mill to generate electricity (from the wood waste for their operations).”