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Nicola Valley Residents Protest Biosolids Disposal in the Environment

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Frustrated residents from the Merritt and Nicola Valley region took to the streets of downtown Kamloops Friday afternoon to voice their concerns of biosolids being transported and dumped into the environment in their community.

The group is concerned that biosolids are being trucked from the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland to be disposed in the Nicola Valley. The group singles out two parcels of land, each about 320 acres in size, which they fear are going to be used as dumping sites.

“The purpose of the protest is to let the government know, let the Minister of Health know, that when it comes to the application of sludge or biosolids on our land in the Nicola Valley, that we are not going to tolerate it and it is not acceptable,” said Aaron Sam, Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band. “One of the first issues that we have from the First Nations is that we have never been consulted.”

The residents of the area are concerned that the biosolids could cause both health and environmental problems.

“We’re concerned about the effects on the water, on our soil, and on the animals,” Sam said. “Our First Nation community members and the communities at large in the Merritt area are reliant on the land to be healthy. At the end of the day, it comes down to the health of our community members.”

The crowd was visibly, and audibly, very frustrated. Singing chants of “Hey! Ho! Hey! Ho! Take your oil sludge and go!” were heard through downtown core. The residents are uncertain as to why the Nicola Valley was chosen as a dumping ground for the biosolids.

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“Yes, I’m emotional,” said resident Alan Horne. “It’s going to pollute our well, it’s going to wreck our life. It has already dropped our property values. I retired up here to have peace and quiet and to go fly fishing. Instead I have people bringing in sewage sludge and dumping it up behind my property. I’ve never demonstrated in my life and now I’m out here on the street.”

Biosolids are treated wastewater sludge that is further processed to reduce pathogens and odors, is stabilized, and tested ensure quality criteria is met with accordance to the BC Organic Recycling Regulation.

One of the management practices used for biosolids is a Land Application Plan. Public notification of land is not required, but the Ministry of Environment is notified of all land application plans.

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According to the Ministry of Environment, biosolids are made up primarily of water, organic matter and nutrients, which can be used as a soil amendment or fertilizer. The biosolids contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which support plants and help prevent soil erosion.

The Ministry of Environment have met with community leaders from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District and local First Nations, including Sam, over the past few months. On June 17th the Ministry of Environment announced a plan to conduct a scientific review of the biosolids in the Nicola Valley.

The review will focus on developing a monitoring and testing scheme for biosolids in the area, review the effectiveness of the current requirements of the Land Application Plan, and review research on how biosolids impact wildlife and determine if further testing is required.

“Our government is committed to continue working closely with all parties to ensure concerns are heard and addressed and that we ensure the application of biosolids is done safely for both the residents of the Nicola Valley and the environment,” said Minister of Environment Mary Polak.

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Sam says he does not believe the previous discussions with government officials have resulted in enough action, and he wishes to see more done in the future.

“What we want to do is we want to sit down with the government and talk about real solutions to the issue because it is not going to go away and we want to find a solution to the issue that we can live with in the Nicola Valley, a solution that is acceptable and all British Columbians can be proud of,” he said.

The community opposed to the biosolids has created a Go Fund Me page for anyone seeking more information, or they can visit the Friends of the Nicola Valley Facebook page.

For more information about biosolids, visit the Ministry of Enviroment’s frequently asked questions website.









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