Closure of Swan Hills plant a big tax hit for the region

County, Swan Hills lobby province for alternative solution

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Big Lakes County is lobbying the provincial government to find alternatives for the Swan Hills Waste Treatment Centre, after it is schedule to close in 2025.

At its Oct. 27 meeting, council approved a briefing document to lobby the province to find a new role and purpose for the plant.

“The closure of the plant will be a devastating blow to the community of Swan Hills and Big Lakes County,” the document says. “We believe alternatives are available for this site.”

Big Lakes will lose $1.16 million in direct tax revenue each year, council heard.

The plant also supports Swan Hills businesses, hospital, schools, rec facilities and the real estate market. For an industry town of 1,300 people, the loss of 110 jobs means many of those employees and their families would be forced to move away from the community.

Big Lakes and Swan Hills want to be partners in a solution that they think would reduce the province’s $176 million reclamation liability, at the same time as diversifying and stimulating the local economy.

The two municipalities are asking the province for a grant of $250,000, similar to ones offered under the Coal Transition Fund. They’d use it to seek outside expertise on finding other options for the site.

CAO Jordan Panasiuk told council somebody from Alberta Infrastructure recently told him government is willing to work with local municipalities on the future of the facility.

As to why the government wants to pull the plug on the facility, Panasiuk said it was designed for “high PCBs” and it’s predicted they will be eliminated by 2025.

“Swan Hills was not the most economical location for the plant,” he added.

Since it opened in 1987, the plant processed more than 295,000 metric tonnes of hazardous waste. In 2020, the Government of Alberta announced it would begin to phase out the facility, and by 2025 it would be fully closed.

The plant accepts waste from across Canada, ranging from household materials gathered in toxic waste round-ups, to hazardous wastes generated by industrial facilities.

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