Burnaby’s waste-to-energy facility is prepared to spend another $8 million to reduce its number 1 emitted pollutant – nitrogen oxide.
Upgrades are underway at the Metro Vancouver incinerator’s environmental control systems. The $8 million is expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide at the mass-burn incinerator, which burns garbage that is not recyclable and produces enough electricity to power about 16,000 homes.
“NOx (nitrogen oxide) is interesting because it’s a smog forming pollutant, and the waste-to-energy facility currently emits about 0.9 per cent of all NOx generated in the region,” Paul Henderson, Metro Vancouver’s solid waste general manager, told the NOW. “With this upgrade, it’ll drop to 0.4 per cent.”
Last May, Metro Vancouver approved a long-term plan for environmental upgrades for the incinerator with a $30 million price tag to unfold over the next several years. The current project is one of several in a continued effort to upgrade the environmental impact of burning garbage, Henderson said.
There’s also a project in the planning phase to reduce acid gases, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen chloride emissions from the incinerator. Currently, for every one tonne of garbage processed, nitrogen oxide (1.9 kilograms), carbon monoxide (0.151 kg), and sulphur dioxide (0.584 kg) are emitted in both the ground and air ash. Each year, the incinerator processes about 280,000 tonnes of garbage.
“From the East Coast, we hear of acid rain,” Henderson said. “It’s not such a substantial issue in Metro Vancouver, but that’s what the potential impact of those natural gases are. The program we have will substantially reduce those parameters.”
On sunny summer days, nitrogen oxide can combine with other air emissions to create the smog that appears on the horizon.
In all, about 2.9 kg of trace air emissions (what comes out of the incinerator, after garbage goes in) are produced for every tonne of garbage incinerated.
“The key message being the waste-to-energy facility has continuously improved, and, also the operations of the facility is not negatively impacting the environment,” Henderson noted.
Since 1988, about $60 million has been invested in the incinerator for environmental upgrades, according to Metro Vancouver.
“Our waste-to-energy facility is part of an integrated, cost-efficient system that is focused on reducing garbage and managing residual waste in a manner that ensures protection of the environment,” said Malcolm Brodie, zero-waste committee chair, in a media release. “Metro Vancouver is committed to continuing operational and environmental upgrades, which further reduce emissions and protect our air quality.”
Metro Vancouver monitors the air quality in the Lower Fraser Valley Airshed, which includes the Fraser Valley Regional District.
According to Metro Vancouver, emission inventories show cars, trucks, bulldozers, marine vessels and other transportation emissions account for most of the region’s emissions of nitrogen oxides.