Residents in Dallas and Barnhartvale were not at all impressed to hear a medical health officer tell City council Interior Health is prepared to shut down operations that threaten public health.
They’ve complained of health effects, wholly attributing them to a biosolids mixing operation for a year now, without being able to convince Interior Health to act on the problem. Residents were expecting to meet Thursday with a few City councillors on the unresolved issue.
All attention appears focused on potential mine impacts, while an existing and persistent impact of industrial activity is ignored, the residents say.
Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, IHA medical health officer, appeared before City council Tuesday to provide an update on a health impact review of the Ajax Mine environmental impact assessment. He said it’s not uncommon for IHA health protection division to order shutdowns.
Two years ago, Interior Health stopped a plan by Regional District of Central Okanagan to spread biosolids at the old Brenda Mine site, citing risks to Peachland’s water supply in the event of an extreme-weather event.
Dallas residents want the same consideration. For almost a year, they have complained of health effects as a result of dust blowing from a biosolids operation run by Arrow Transportation on the Blackwell Dairy Farm. After they complained to City council, the City pursued the issue but found it has no authority to prevent an agricultural practice protected by the provincial Farm Act.
On the river bench lands above, residents in rural Barnhartvale have had the same problem as a result of biosolids stored nearby for the same operation. They had set up a meeting with dairy owner Ted Blackwell, but cancelled since the piles were recently moved.
“I know the people in Dallas are really concerned,” said Alison Miller, part of the Barnhartvale group. “They’ve been having problems with the wind.”
“Nobody hears us,” said one Dallas resident. They’re so fed up, many have given up attempting to lobby government.
A storm last Thursday, April 21, was “horrific,” he said. Localized storms were sweeping through the valley that day. A high wind sent black dust airborne over Dallas.
What concerns them most is Class B biosolids.
Residents point to research by UBC scientist Karen Bartlett, warning of microbe spores in compost (yard waste, food scraps and biosolids) that are allergenic and provoke inflammatory response, symptoms consistent with theirs. Bartlett's 2009 study focused on workplace safety. Among her findings was that the job associated with highest exposures to the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus was blending biosolid (sewage sludge) with wood chips inside a barn. The Barnhartvale operation mixes the same materials with native soil and sand as a soil amender.
“The problem we’re having with Interior Health is that they won’t investigate until they hear from enough doctors,” Miller said. “The doctors will not say definitively that it’s caused by biosolids; they can’t.”
With 14 complaints from Barnhartvale and at least that many from Dallas, they were still pinning their hopes on an IHA response.
“We sort of figured, between the two communities, they would take a look at it, but at this point they’re not. We feel that we’re being ignored altogether. It’s frustrating. We’re surprised by IHA’s lack of concern. We’re surprised by the City not having any control over what’s going on in the city.”
The whole controversy flared up in the Nicola Valley last year when a biosolids mixing operation was stopped in its tracks by a roadblock and moratorium on biosolids application declared by local First Nations.
Despite all the problems and complaints, which have dragged on for more than two years, a promised scientific review of biosolids and the regulations governing their use has only added to frustration among Interior residents.
Two weeks ago, the five chiefs of the Nicola Valley, who were instrumental in forcing the provincial government to act last year on the issue of land application biosolids, walked away in protest from the panel review of biosolids promised last June. The chiefs said their participation in the review has been reduced to observer status only.
B.C.’s Ministry of Environment is promising that the scientific review will be complete by July. The work of the independent panel will help inform a broader provincial review of the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation, which will look at potential new standards for organic contaminants as well as requirements for the production, management and use of biosolids.
Randy Murray, TNRD director for Nicola Valley North, feels the provincial government is merely window dessing ahead of next year's election.
"If they truly wanted to resolve it, they'd have a full review with the Ministry of Agriculture," Murray said. "I think that's where it has to start. I think there's more coming at the government than they realized."
After withdrawing from the review, First Nations in B.C. are uniting around the issue, he noted.
"At the end of the day, long-term dumping for the low-cost, highest risk option is wrong," Murray added.
May 8, 2016 06:47pm
April 29, 2016 08:41am
Caroline Snyder says:
April 29, 2016 07:37am
For a copy of a new Sludge Activists Tool Kit visit www.sludgefacts.org
Pierre Filisetti says:
April 29, 2016 06:27am
I too am surprised by the City not having any control over what’s going on in the city. Actually and I am not surprised at all.
April 29, 2016 04:17pm
Gary Chandler says:
April 29, 2016 05:58am
April 28, 2016 08:19pm
April 28, 2016 06:21pm
Alan Dubbs says:
April 28, 2016 05:00pm
April 28, 2016 12:37pm
It seems to me there would be a pretty short list of suspects selling the biosolids...city of Kamloops perhaps?
Alan Dubbs says:
May 10, 2016 06:53pm
Strange that thousands of Kamloopsians worry that Ajax dust might get us here in town from an operation not existing yet, while the Barnhartvale dust can easily come down the valley from an ongoing operation?
May 8, 2016 10:33am
April 28, 2016 12:37pm
3. Health risks http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/sludge-train-zbcz1604.aspx
April 28, 2016 12:09pm
Leona Antoine says:
April 28, 2016 11:09am
April 28, 2016 11:05am
What a limited lens for the health authority to use - they should investigate the concerns of the residents of Barnhartvale. Maybe things would be different if we had a medical health officer who actually lived here instead of in Kelowna.
I heard at the city meeting that the city wants Ajax to use the city biosolids up at the site. Do you know if that is true NewsKamloops? Will the residents of Kamloops have S*** mixed in to the dust from mining operations if Ajax goes ahead? No one deserves that!