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Asbestos concerns put a halt to drywall recycling at Westside transfer station

Recycled drywall sits in a disposal bin.
Image Credit: AdobeStock
October 19, 2017 - 9:00 PM

CENTRAL OKANAGAN - Problems with drywall dust contaminated with asbestos has prompted the Central Okanagan Regional District to stop accepting drywall at its Westside transfer station.

Environmental services manager Peter Rotheisler says the ban stems from concerns by WorkSafe B.C. about moving and loading the drywall into trucks.

“There is no issue for the general public because the pile isn’t very dusty,” he said. “It becomes dusty when you pick it up in a (loader) bucket and then dump it. There’s a big cloud of drywall dust that comes off it.”

WorkSafe B.C. has also asked for air sampling when the drywall pile is disturbed during loading and transportation to determine airborne asbestos levels.

Rotheisler said WorkSafe B.C. has told them to leave the pile undisturbed until sampling can be completed.

“It’s not the drywall itself that’s the issue,” he said. “Some of the coatings people put on drywall, textured coatings for ceilings or walls, drywall mud prior to 1990, some of those materials contained asbestos.”

Complicating the situation at the Westside facility is the lack of space for storing the drywall and the lack of a place to recycle it, Rotheisler added.

Rotheisler said the regional district has just recently worked out a method approved by WorkSafe B.C. where it can be loaded into 30-yard roll-off bins lined with plastic for shipping.

The district is currently seeking quotes from qualified companies capable of transporting the drywall once it is cleared so they can begin digging into the pile.

Both the regional district and the City of Kelowna use the same company in Red Deer, Alta to dispose of their drywall but in recent months Rotheisler said the company has not been accepting loads because of a weak resale market for recycled drywall.

Rotheisler said the Glenmore Landfill, owned and operated by the City of Kelowna, is facing the same asbestos testing demands from the employee safety watchdog but has the luxury of space to keep expanding its drywall pile if they can’t find a place to ship it.

“They accept 20 times what we do so their pile is huge but if they ultimately can’t find a way of reusing it because there’s no market, they have the option of burying it onsite,” he added. “We don’t have that option.”

The Glenmore Landfill will not accept bulk drywall from the regional district, Rotheisler said, although individual West Kelowna residents are encouraged to drop their drywall there until the Westside ban is ended.

“Once we clear out some room, we can start taking new stuff that doesn’t have any coating on it,” he added.

The regional district is also starting a program allowing residents to put the cut ends of new drywall out for curbside collection, Rotheisler said.

Residents with coated or painted drywall should bag it and put in the regular garbage, he added.


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