After a fire devastated a trailer home on their property in the fall of 2010, the Rushton family wasn’t expecting such a large bill to dispose of the remaining debris.
In the October blaze two occupants inside the home managed to escape but the house was destroyed.
“Our daughter lives in the trailer and her and her boyfriend woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t know why,” says Lori Rushton. “She just woke up in terror and ran and when she got outside she realized it was a fire and he managed to get out the back window.”
The home was insured and the policy paid for debris removal to the tune of five per cent of the total policy.
When the debris — considered in the DLC category of demolition, land clearing and construction — arrived at the regional landfill the Rushtons say they paid approximately $6,200 in tipping fees and HST to dispose of the debris.
Rushton agrees with a user-pay system but objects to the fact that the regional district does not make allowances for fire debris that has undergone saturation through the process of having water under high pressure applied to it.
“It’s not even the fees as much as how they calculate the fee,” she says.
“Charging a fee for something that would be presumably a dry weight versus something that has gone through a fire. They poured lots and lots of water on it to put it out and it doesn’t drain away or evaporate. It’s in that debris; it’s super saturated.”
Cariboo Regional District board chair Al Richmond says that while the regional district sympathizes with Rushton’s situation, tipping fees are a matter of cost recovery that ensure future operation of the landfill.
“If we don’t charge the fees for someone to go in there then someone’s got to pay for it,” he says, adding, “Why should taxpayers be subsidizing it further? People are paying taxes to keep the landfill open. These are costs we are trying to recoup… . If we don’t take in the revenue we still have the expense.”
Richmond says Rushton “may have a point” but wonders how to calculate for the material other than by weight. He further said that the fee structure has been set by the board and staff and that the CRD’s fees are “reasonable” when compared to other regional districts.
According to the CRD, there is no category specifically for fire debris; charges for DLC material are applied differently depending on whether it is separated. Debris that is not separated (non-segregated) is charged at $160 per tonne over 450 kilograms; wood that is separated out is charged $45 per tonne over 450 kilograms, concrete at $15 per tonne over 450, and metals and clean soil are received free of charge.
The lower fees for segregated material is to get people to separate their debris to improve waste management and extend the landfill’s life, say CRD staff.
The 450-kilogram exemption is to encourage individuals to use the main site rather than the rural transfer stations.
The regional district offered comparisons to other jurisdictions that do not make exemptions for weight. Columbia-Shuswap charges $180 a tonne for non-segregated waste, the Regional District of Central Kootenay $260 per tonne and Regional District of Central Okanagan $160 per tonne.
Further comparisons for non-segregated material show the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George charges $55 per tonne with no weight exemption, Peace River Regional District $70 per tonne with no weight exemption and the Thompson Nicola Regional District $60 per tonne with no weight exemption.
Rushton requested the CRD review its tipping fees for DLC material; however, the board decided against a move to “adjust or reduce tipping fees for fire debris material as requested.”
“We believe in user pay. We just think it should be at a fair weight,” Rushton says.