By Andru McCracken

A Doosan excavator feeds a massive remotely controlled Vermeer horizontal grinder. The combination makes short work of yard waste at the Valemount Industrial Park.

Sean Silverstein, a sales rep for Westerra Equipment, has the answer for the area’s smokey burn piles. Silverstein gave locals the opportunity to see a Vermeer industrial chipper in action at the Valemount Community Forest and in a nearby logging block.

“We can take this stuff and turn it into a usable, viable product. We now stop it from going to the landfill, we stop it from burning in the air and we can turn it into cash flow and jobs,” said Silverstein.

The chipper can process wood up to four feet in diameter.

Valemount Mayor Owen Torgerson visited the chipper on site and was impressed. He said it could help as rules around burning slash piles in the province tighten up.

“The Vermeer chipper demonstration provided an example of a technology that could mitigate these potential restrictions imposed on the burning of forestry waste,” he said. “This could “¦ create biomass fuel to generate heat or power, creating a potential for more local jobs, and at the same time improve local air quality. There are a lot of variables involved, but this type of technology has the potential to promote industry-investment confidence that could further evolve our forest sector.”

Valemount Community Forest Manager Craig Pryor said he appreciated the demonstration.

“We’re trying to learn,” he said. “”It was more of an educational thing… something for the future.”

Pryor said waste is an issue. He said chipping the waste wood isn’t the whole solution, because the cost of shipping the resulting material costs too much.

“If we were an hour from Prince George or Kamloops we would have one running steady,” he said. “Being three hours away from the next biggest centre, it doesn’t make sense.”

Pryor said that the community forest is trying to solve the problem of waste.

“We are talking to everyone we can, trying to learn all aspects to solve this problem,” he said.