Asphalt plant dismantled in Cheakamus

New, more emission-friendly plant installed as season set to begin

Out with the old in with the new. That's the theme of the week at Cheakamus Crossing where Whistler Aggregates staff members were busy dismantling the controversial asphalt plant to make way for a newer, more emission-friendly one.

It's a change that's been long in the works, according to plant owner Frank Silveri, but only now was the company able to begin the transition.

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"If it hadn't of kept snowing up there we'd have set it up already," said Silveri, noting that he purchased the plant last year and just ran out of time to set it up. "We were doing the highway job (last year) and then we got hit with winter and all that."

As for the difference in plants, Silveri said the new one is better than the old in nearly all facets of performance.

"It's basically the same as the ones down in the Lower Mainland, the newest ones," explained Silveri. "They meet every standard you can think of. They're built for cities and they're really quite a piece of equipment. The (emissions) numbers are about 10 per cent better than the old ones.

"There's nothing better on the market right now than these ones as far as environmentally-sound equipment goes."

When asked if any paving projects are coming up in the Whistler area, Silveri said while there are a few lined up, like all industries Whistler Aggregates is feeling the effects of a slow economy.

"Right now it's slow all over," he said. "There's not a lot of work around anywhere, really. The economy, as you well know, is not that great right now. The Ministry (of Transportation) might spend some money, there's talk that there might be some work, but nobody knows until the last minute."

The installation of the new plant follows the municipality's decision not to appeal the January Supreme Court ruling, which stated that the asphalt plant was able to continue operating in the area. Rather than pursue it further in court, Whistler Council opted to go down a more conciliatory path and begin negotiations with Silveri.

"That's a good thing," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of the new plant. "He (Silveri) had said in March when we announced that we weren't going to pursue the appeal in court he was going to move forward and install the new plant, so I'm happy to hear that he's doing that."

For Cheakamus Crossing resident Mitch Forster, the new plant is also welcomed news. But having the plant moved is still the ultimate goal, she added.

"I guess that's one step closer to having a better summer for us, but it's not the best final result," said Forster. "I would like to see it gone altogether, but it's one step in the right direction."

She said any reduction from the old plant's emissions and output would be a welcomed change, as it was easy to tell whenever the plant was running, even while inside her home.

"I'm one of the furthest away, so the noise wasn't as much an impact as the smell and the taste. It wasn't a pleasant taste in the air," she said. "I will still be looking to council for further steps but it's great that they've gotten to this point so quickly, whereas previously it seemed to take a long time to get anywhere."

Ultimately, Forster said she's hopeful that through negotiating with Silveri, the RMOW and residents of Cheakamus Crossing will be able to come to a solution that appeases everybody.

Silveri agreed, noting that he's been in communications with the RMOW since council decided not to pursue an appeal in court.

"We just try to keep them informed about what's happening," said Silveri. "We're being straight with them about the changing of equipment, we have nothing to hide. Everything speaks for itself and we're not here to cause problems."

For now, Forster said she's cautiously optimistic about how the new plant will compare with the old.

"Hopefully people can enjoy the outdoors a little bit more knowing that there's less pollutants out there in the air with the more efficient plant," said Forster.

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