A year after staff from the Ministry of Environment defended B.C.’s rules surrounding the use of biosolids as fertilizer, the ministry has announced a comprehensive review of the organic matter recycling regulation.
Despite the current regulations having been touted as “one of the best standards in the world,” by staff with the Ministry of Environment last year, the comprehensive review of the organic matter recycling regulation (OMRR) will begin in the fall of 2016. The regulation came into effect in 2002.
Amendments to the OMRR are expected to be made in 2017, after a lengthy period of public consultation, according to a release from the Ministry of Environment.
A revised OMRR could set new standards for acceptable levels of organic contaminants in biosolids, as well as new requirements for production and management of the solid waste left over from sewage.
Opposition to the land use of biosolids has been steady in the Nicola Valley, as the chiefs of the Nicola Valley First Nations bands signed a moratorium on the dumping of biosolids in the valley last year.
Lower Nicola Valley Band Chief Aaron Sam hailed the announcement of the review as a step in the right direction, but reiterated that the chiefs maintain their opposition to all land use of biosolids.
“I would support anything when it relates to consulting the community at large,” said Sam. “It’s always a good step to consult British Columbians and First Nations.”
“Well we, the Nicola Chiefs, have said since we’ve been involved in the process of biosolids, [that] we do not want the land application of biosolids in this area, and our position hasn’t changed,” Sam continued.
The announcement of a comprehensive review of the OMRR also accompanied news that the results from a scientific review on the land use of biosolids — undertaken last year after the moratorium was enacted by the area chiefs — would be published in May.
Don Vincent, the president of the Friends of the Nicola Valley, a group organized in opposition to the land application of biosolids, doesn’t hold out much hope for the provincial government to change its tune.
“I’m sure they’ll do some superficial nonsense,” said Vincent of the review process. “The Friends of the Nicola Valley have been quite clear — land application of biosolids is an old-school way of dealing with human waste.”
Vincent pointed to other countries, like Denmark and South Korea, and even the city of Los Angeles, as places that are on the cutting edge of human waste disposal, employing massive pyrolysis plants which turn sewer sludge into usable fuel.
In an email to the Herald, Ministry of Environment spokesperson David Karn said the ministry continues to hear concerns regarding the use of biosolids as a soil enhancement, and the review will assure the OMRR is consistent with the most up to date scientific information.
“We want to ensure the rules we have in place to protect human health and the environment are always based on the best available science and are continually updated. This review follows the common regulatory review process for all regulations and codes under the Environmental Management Act,” the email stated.