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Turtle Valley Blockade to Protect Aquifer #230 From Kamloops Biosolids

by Billie Pierre

Photo: Turtle Valley residents. Biosolids Blockade by Residents from Turtle Valley have been served an Injunction for May 18
Photo: Turtle Valley residents. Biosolids Blockade by Residents from Turtle Valley have been served an Injunction for May 18
Map: BC Groundwater Aquifers Database. Both Little Shuswap Indian Band's Talking Rock Golf Course and the Turtle Valley Biosolid locations are on top of aquifers.
Map: BC Groundwater Aquifers Database. Both Little Shuswap Indian Band's Talking Rock Golf Course and the Turtle Valley Biosolid locations are on top of aquifers.
The logged hillside of Mount Boysee above Chum Creek.
The logged hillside of Mount Boysee above Chum Creek.

On April 29, a group of residents from Turtle Valley, which is located near Squilax BC, blocked the entrance to Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, a privately-owned property where over a two week period, Arrow Transportation trucks had been hauling in Class B biosolids from the City of Kamloops. On April 27, the residents gathered outside Kamloops City Hall to protest the disposal of the City of Kamloops’ biosolids in their community. The City continued to refuse to meaningfully engage with Turtle Valley residents, stating that the residents needed to take up the matter with the province.

Kamloops awarded Nutrigrow and Arrow Transport a three year contract to haul an annual amount of 35,000 tonnes of the city’s biosolids to mix it in the soil on a twenty-one hectare, previously logged hillside on Mount Boysee. In recent years, biosolids have become a convenient way for cities to dispose of their sewage, and it’s promoted as a fertilizer that can be used for agriculture and that can be mixed with Indigenous soil. The project promotes the use of biosolids as a means to revitalizing the soil in the area, but Class B biosolids are controversial, because they’re partially-treated human sewage that still contain pathogens along with whatever chemicals people dump in their toilets. The safety of biosolids is not a widely accepted in the scientific community, as some scientists have expressed concern for the environmental impacts of biosolids on soil, air quality and water.

The nearby residents have concerns about contamination of the aquifer below the project. They’re also concerned about the runoff that may occur from the nearby Chum Creek, which flows into the Chum Lake, Little Shuswap Lake, the South Thompson River, and ultimately the ocean. They want the creek and lake tested before the biosolids are spread.

On May 9, 2019 the BC Supreme Court granted Arrow Transport an injunction after their project was halted by the blockade, and this will be effective by May 18, 2019. The corporation has stated that the project at Turtle Valley takes place beside an aquifer, and doesn’t pose any real danger to any water sources. Only one protester is named in the injunction, Connie Seaward, a resident of Turtle Valley.

Interview with Connie Seaward, Turtle Valley Resident, on Thursday, May 2, a week before the injunction was granted:

Is the blockade still going on?

The blockade is still going on, and we plan to continue until there’s an injunction. The company has a lot of money though, so this may happen soon.

I read that this project intends to dump 35,000 tonnes of Class B biosolids annually for the next three years. Is this true?

The City of Kamloops produces 12,500 tonnes of sewage a year. The Land Application Plan is for a two-year contract at 35,000 tonnes a year, but can be extended indefinitely, then can be extended two years separately after. If they want to sign after four years, they have three more land ID’s to do what they want. (The land ID’s are Premises ID is assigned to a single legal land description or land use permit). They can continue to apply until the regulated toxins reach a maximum allowable limit according to the Canadian Contaminated Soil Guide. Once the soil is maxed out, then they move on to find a new place.

On April 1, we met with the Minister of Environment, Don Vergamini, and questioned him about the how this project impacts the people with water permits and licenses downstream. Because this project disregards their sustainable water source. This information was left out of (Arrow Transportation’s) the Land Application Plan. Arrow Transportation’s agrologist, Ruth McDougall, failed to mention that the property is on top of an aquifer. We asked her what kind of research she did for this project, and she said that she relied on the information gathered from the land owner who a year ago had drilled a well at 450-foot well for a house he ended up not building. At 450 feet, he didn’t hit water. Arrow failed to do their own research on how this project impacts the water. According to the sustainable water guide that was created by the BC government, six or seven of the project’s land IDs are on top of Aquifer #0230. Arrow completely ignored this fact because it’s convenient for them to do so. Under the law -- clause 9 of sub-paragraph 6 of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation -- land applications must not be applied on a permitted water source. It is illegal to do so.

 

"Environmental Management Act and Public Health Act

ORGANIC MATTER RECYCLING REGULATION

[includes amendments up to B.C. Reg. 7/2019, February 28, 2019]

Land application and distribution

9   (1) Class B biosolids may be applied to land in accordance with subsection (2) or distributed in accordance with subsection (4).

(6) Class B biosolids must not be land applied in a watershed used as a permitted water supply under the Drinking Water Protection Regulation, B.C. Reg. 200/2003."

 

 

When asked about this, Don Vergamini stated that it’s not the Ministry of Environment’s job to investigate Land Application Plans, and that the Ministry only needs to ensure that the project is contractual. It is literally up to Arrow to regulate themselves. There exists no process to investigate whether the information on their Land Application Plan is truthful.

Legally, a Land Application Plan’s maximum allowable amount of biosolids in one location is 9 per cent. There needs to be 91% native soil, carbon, or wood. We asked the Ministry of Environment whether they will be taking a core sample in the middle of the plot, and they told us that this is the job of Arrow’s personal agrologist Ruth McDougall. Arrow’s LAP virtually allows them to do whatever they want.

We asked today about Ministry of Environment’s contingency plan, because the biosolids are slated to go on a slope above Chum Creek. We asked who will be responsible if the biosolids contaminate this creek and everything downstream? They said the Ministry of Environment has no responsibility, that it’s the responsibility of the landowner and contractor. I do wonder if the landowner Conrad Schiebel and contractor Keith Ully with Keegers Equipment are aware that they are responsible for clean-up costs. If the project deviates from the LAP? Do they have a multi-million dollar bond for this project in case it needs to be cleaned up?

In 2003, the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation was changed, after the successful anti-biosolids campaign in Merritt BC in 2016. The provincial government had a public open review where people could submit for changes. These changes are due to come into effect within the next three to six months, so that Land Application Permits can’t be granted to projects that are applying for Class B biosolids. This is proactive though, so Turtle Valley will be stuck with the project continuing on as it is. We want to stall it long enough so it will have to be more sustainable. The Ministry of Environment has no way of stopping it. We’d have to complain to the Compliance Review Issue, and they are nearly inaccessible.

So initially this biosolids project was planned for Little Shuswap Band. Do you know anything about that?

The Land Application Plan for Turtle Valley Bison Ranch has been modified from the original Land Application that was made for the Little Shuswap Band. Their project dealt with Class A biosolids, where all the pathogens have been removed, and was proposed to be distributed on flat ground, rather than on a slope. The Ministry of Environment has admitted that the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch project was an amended plan.   

Do you have anything else you’d like to say?

The Turtle Valley application of class B biosolids will cover 31 hectares of logged mountainside (Mount Boysee) one meter deep in a mix of biosolids/soil/wood fibre. The land use application does not adequately cover load, slope or surface water concerns. If toxic materials wash from the site into Chum Creek and, ultimately, the Thompson River, salmon populations could be affected. Turtle Valley Bison Ranch, Nutrigrow/Arrow Transportation and the City of Kamloops should not be allowed to affect my health and the water in the area.

Arrow Transportation noted the project had been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Ministry of Environment. The mayor reached out to protesters on April 29 and I’m still waiting on more information we requested about testing and impacts on waterways. Jeff Mayer, the regional manager of Arrow Transportation, said application won’t follow for at least a month or two. All the soil the company has been mixing needs to first be tested. Doing so would save the city the $4.4 million now being paid to Nutrigrow/Arrow Transport to haul the biosolids from the city’s waste-treatment site to a bison ranch in Turtle Valley.

There are as many experts concerned about the safety of applying Class B biosolids to agricultural land as there are experts who tell us not to worry. When there is so much disagreement among the experts, then surely the wise course of action is extreme caution and intense scrutiny of all land application plans.   

[Follow up on May 12th, after the injunction was granted.] Do you have anything to share about the injunction that Arrow filed that’ll come into effect May 18?

The people at the Turtle Valley blockade will be going for own injunction next week based on the aquifer, and also will be taking advantage of the loopholes in Arrow’s Land Application Plan. Arrow quickly took the LAP from the LIttle Shuswap Indian band when the plan to have the biosolids dumped at Talking Rock Golf course fell through. They say they have all their permits, but they don’t. They were rushed and that works in our favour and we may get them on a technicality. Again their qualified professional Ruth McDougal from Enderby told me herself that the Turtle Valley project was not by any significant water source. I found out that the project is located on the aquifer from BC Water Atlas maps. She didn’t even look into it. If community has to go to court, we will, but the compliance review board should’ve stopped this project a long time ago.

Interview with David Karn, media relations for the Ministry of Environment

I hear that the Land Application Plan for this project was actually modified from a project that was planned for the Little Shuswap Indian Band, where Class A biosolids were going to be used to expand their golf course? Also that this was in a location that was flat, and not on a slope like that above the Chum Creek?

The Ministry did not receive any information regarding the earlier proposal planned with the Shuswap Indian Band. We have heard through un-official sources that they had planned on composting the Class B biosolids from the City of Kamloops and creating Class A compost which was then to be used on a golf course.

It is our understanding that the current area proposed for the land application of biosolids is to be re-contoured. We do not have information regarding the proposed final slope once final contouring has been undertaken; however, the submitted Land Application Plan noted the Qualified Professional has implemented a setback of 60 meters from Chum Creek and 100 meters from Chum Lake rather than the minimum setback of 30 meters required under the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation to ensure protection of water bodies.

In accordance with our Land Application Guideline the Qualified Professional must carefully assess site slope and topography, soil texture and permeability, aspect and climate change and make a professional judgement of site suitability based on these factors. It is our understanding based on the Arrow Transportation newsletter that a surveying company has been retained to recommend final contours and soil placement.

I heard that 6 or 7 of the project’s land ID’s are on top of the aquifer #0230, according to the BC government published BC Aquifer Classification maps. That this is described by the BC government as a class 3 volatile aquifer susceptible to surface contaminants. It’s made of rock and sand. Has the MOE done any research on the location of aquifers for this project? Is the MOE accepting the research of the company Arrow for this project?

The Organic Matter Recycling Regulation has requirements both under the Environmental Management Act and the Public Health Act. Notification for the land application of biosolids was also provided to Interior Health Authority as required by the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. Interior Health Authority is the agency responsible for drinking water supplies as such the question about aquifer should be directed to IHA for a response.

Is the Ministry of Environment going to conduct any tests to ensure that the biosolids located on Turtle Valley Bison Ranch does not exceed 9% of what's allowable in the soil?

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy will inspect the site in accordance with standard ministry practice to ensure the company is operating in compliance with all aspects of the Regulation. In the event that the ministry has reason to believe that the land application of biosolids is causing or is likely to cause pollution, the ministry may conduct whatever testing or assessments are required to make this determination, and will take action as needed to ensure protection of the environment and human health.

As per the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, a Qualified Professional must certify that the biosolids have been applied in accordance with the Land Application plan.

The Qualified Professional has stated in their submitted land application plan that routine monitoring of actual nutrient levels in the amended soils will be conducted. A blend ratio of 9% biosolids (dry weight) is a maximum value based on nitrogen concentrations in the biosolids. Actual blend ratios may be lower if the nitrogen content of the biosolids is found to be higher in other portions of the stored biosolids.

Additional information on biosolids may be found on the Ministry website: Biosolid Waste in B.C.

Unanswered Questions to Jeff Mayer, the Regional Director of Arrow Transport

I asked Jeff Mayer, the regional director of Arrow Transport what is the proposed final slope once final contouring has been undertaken for this project, what tests have been done to show how this project can impact the people with water permits and licenses downstream? What tests have been done to ensure the safety of the drinking water and water farmers rely on? I asked about the project taking place on top of Aquifer #0230, and that concerned Turtle Valley resident, Connie Seaward stated that Arrow’s agrologist, Ruth McDougall, failed to mention in the project's Land Application Plan that the property is on top of an aquifer. That McDougall hadn’t done any of her own research on impacts on water, and that she relied on the information gathered from the landowner who a year ago had drilled a well at 450-foot well for a house he ended up not building. At 450 feet, he didn’t hit water. I asked what research McDougall and Arrow Transport had done about how this project impacts the water? I asked that if Chum Creek or Aquifer #0230, are contaminated with Biosolids, who faces the possibility of fines and who is responsible for the clean-up? I asked if the City of Kamloops produces 12,500 tonnes of Biosolids annually, but Arrow's contract is to haul 35,000 tonnes of biosolids annually, was there a possibility of biosolids being brought in from other locations, and if so where are the other biosolids coming from? Lastly, I asked what sort of ongoing tests will Arrow be doing on the impacts of this project on the water, air quality and soil, if this is fully the responsibility of Arrow, or if any government body be regulating the testing, and if the tests be made public?

Though we spoke on the phone and had been in touch through email, none of these questions were answered.


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