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Provincial action on biosolids doesn’t deter Kamloops protest
While the Ministry of Environment begins a scientific review of biosolids in the Nicola Valley, protesters picketed in Kamloops to tell the provincial government they demand operations surrounding the treated sewage turned fertilizer be stopped.
On Friday, protesters from Merritt protested in downtown Kamloops outside Hotel 540, where provincial government officials were meeting.
Protesters outside the hotel blocked Victoria Street at 5th Avenue to hand out biosolids information sheets.
The protesters believe biosolids contain contaminants that are harmful to the soil and water.
Lower Nicola Chief Aaron Sam said the protest was done to let government know they will not accept anymore biosolids being trucked to the Nicola Valley.
Meanwhile, a technical working group is being formed by the environment ministry to conduct the scientific review that will examine those concerns.
The group will include professionals from the Ministry of Environment, First Nations Health Authority and Interior Health Authority.
An advisory committee is also being established to oversee the technical working group and will make recommendations to Environment Minister Mary Polak.
Minister Polak said the work this group will differ from what the ministry already does to regulate biosolids by taking a more comprehensive look.
She said ministry staff have drawn up a draft sampling plan for the working technical group, which will determine the final plan.
“We’ve been developing this plan, sharing it together with the chiefs, to go even further to try and reassure the First Nations community, but also the broader community,” Polak said, noting this is an initiative outside the usual monitoring and testing the ministry does with respect to biosolids proponents.
She said the ministry will address any concerns or unexpected results if they come about from the scientific review.
The review will take the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation into consideration, but the OMRR itself is not being reviewed.
“Certainly, if there is anything as a result of this study that indicates that we should — that somehow some of our regulations are deficient — then we would certainly be willing to do that, but we’re not going to engage in a review of the regulations unless there’s some evidence that would warrant that,” Polak said.
She said part of what the review will look into will be determined by the technical working group with advice from the advisory committee.
Sam said the five chiefs support scientific testing and view it as a step in the right direction, but haven’t decided if they will participate in the advisory committee.
Chief Sam said he thinks this testing needs to be done over the course of a year rather than a few months.
According to Polak, the testing is meant to evaluate established biosolids proponents in the Nicola Valley, and determine if biosolids have had any impacts on land, water and wildlife.
“This isn’t a matter of monitoring, it’s a matter of actively going out and sampling in areas where they know what has taken place,” explained Polak. “So it’s not the same as, say, an area where you might have concern and you set up monitoring capacity for an ongoing period of time.”
Polak couldn’t say exactly how much the review will cost.
“I doubt that it would be very costly — all that would be public in the end — and it would certainly have to come from our current Ministry of Environment budget,” Polak said.
But the local anti-biosolids group, Friends of the Nicola Valley, believes this review is a waste of time and money.
“This is a pacification charade meant to derail our focus,” Friends of the Nicola Valley spokesperson Georgia Clement told the Herald via email, adding that the group is opposed to the review and will not participate in it.
Invitations to be on the advisory committee are being sent to the Thompson Nicola Regional District, First Nations, First Nations Health Authority, the Interior Health Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, BC Water and Waste Association, and the BC Cattlemen’s Association.
“This process indicates that government recognizes the importance of the issue to the Nicola Valley, and will provide the opportunity to review and give input,” Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said in a press release. “Although it has taken some time, this is a good first step as we continue to work on this very complex issue.”
Sam said the bands are not willing to allow more biosolids in the Nicola Valley while this testing is taking place, and expect their moratorium on biosolids to be respected.
The chiefs are still concerned with the spreading of biosolids on the contested Woodward Road property, which was recently given the green light to proceed from the IHA and Ministry of Environment without consulting them, Sam said.
Recommendations from the review are expected this fall and its findings will be made public.
Clement said that to the Friends of the Nicola Valley, the only acceptable outcome is an end to land application of biosolids.
Neither the Minister of Environment nor the local bands view this technical working group as consultation with First Nations regarding biosolids.