Home » Radium Resort fire on government: MLA

Posted: February 26, 2016

Radium Resort fire on government: MLA

A demolition debris fire that started burning at Radium Resort on Feb. 22 has some people feeling burned, including Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald.

And the provincial government is hearing about it, because of under-funding to the Ministry of Environment, which has been aware of the now burning debris pile for a year.

Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald

“For a year, our office has been bringing the concerns of constituents to the ministry’s attention, and it is only because these people were willing to speak out that any official action was taken to require the owners to comply with regulation. Regulations that should have been followed from the very beginning were ignored, and now this is the result; burning of hazardous materials at a time when no burning should occur at all,” Macdonald told e-KNOW.

The ministry sent a registered warning letter to resort owner 1760957 Alberta Ltd. on Dec. 17, 2015, outlining unauthorized discharge of demolition waste.

The letter outlines how on Feb. 23 (2015) the B.C. Conservation Officer Service and Environmental Protection Division “were notified of a public complaint, that demolish (sic) waste originating from the Radium Resort was being prepared for burial on the resort property.”

The letter says resort management was informed “that the demolition waste material is considered municipal waste and must be disposed at an authorized solid waste disposal facility.”

The ministry letter warns of possible “escalating response” from government “should non-compliance continue.”

Macdonald said the under-staffed and under-funded Ministry of Environment could not carry through on its warning due to a lack of enforcement capability.

“This is a dramatic case of environmental damage caused by a lack of enforcement, but it is by no means an isolated case. Our office is currently dealing with numerous similar cases where damage is being done, the ministry is fully aware, and virtually no action is being taken,” Macdonald said, adding, “There is a conscious and deliberate decision by the BC Liberal government to underfund the Ministry of Environment. Lack of staff and lack of resources makes the job very difficult with only a very small number of Environmental Protection Officers responsible for the entire province.

“The predictable outcome of this type of mismanagement by government is even greater environmental damage, and ultimately, polluters who will receive no significant penalties for the damage they cause.

“Since the fires began, there has been a huge outcry from people in the area. They are demanding that the Ministry impose meaningful fines and ensure that this environmental mess be completely cleaned up. This is clearly a situation that has angered a lot of residents. The government simply has to act.”

One valley resident has taken his beef to the Minister of Environment Mary Polak.

Local professional ski guide Brodie Smith opens his letter to the minister noting his disgust “by the way that your ministry has dealt with this problem from the beginning. If this issue would have been dealt with in a prompt and proper manner months ago I don’t believe the Radium Resort would have had opportunity to ‘accidentally’ burn this construction waste. People from end-to-end in the Columbia Valley now have carcinogens floating in the air making the air we breathe dangerous! The blue smoke hanging in the air will continue for days or months as that pile of waste continues to smolder. I demand that justice be served to the large corporation that has the means to dispose of their waste properly rather than choosing the cheapest, illegal way of ‘accidentally’ burning of this mess,” Brodie stated in his letter.

Social media and outraged citizens have made this matter extremely transparent. I can’t believe it takes this sort of negative attention for you to deem this a ‘relevant’ issue! Shame on you for not dealing with this properly from the beginning,” he concluded.

Gary W. Goetsch, Managing Director of Radium Resort Limited Partnership, said in a statement to e-KNOW the fire was indeed an accident.

“On Monday, February 22, at the Radium (Resort Golf) Course, two brush piles were being burned as part of our annual clean up. All necessary approvals, permits and notifications were in place. Unfortunately the fire spread to materials from the recent demolition of the Radium Resort Hotel. Over the past four days, heavy equipment and water trucks have been working to extinguish the residual fire.

The fire and resulting smoke will be eliminated soon,” Goetsch said.

“During these challenging times, we will support anyone affected to the best of our ability. We would also like to thank all the local and provincial bodies who have been working so closely in conjunction with us. Their involvement has been invaluable,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment this afternoon issued an advisory about the fire, noting: “While the risk at this time appears to be low, Interior Health has the following advice for residents who may be impacted by smoke from this fire.”

– Conditions may vary by location and you may be able to reduce your exposure by moving to cleaner air or staying indoors. If you experience irritation of eyes, nose or throat, shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms, take action to reduce your exposure.

– Use common sense regarding outdoor physical activity. Concentrations of smoke can change within short distances and short periods of time. Let your symptoms be your guide.

– People with asthma, chronic illness, heart or lung conditions may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke and should watch for any change in symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure. If any symptoms are noted, affected individuals should take steps to reduce their exposure to smoke and, if necessary, see their physician. People with symptoms should go to their health care provider or emergency department depending on severity of symptoms.

– Anyone with emergency health needs should contact 9-1-1.

Lead image: The debris fire at Radium Resort. Photo submitted

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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