Although the protests are taking place just outside Merritt, local governments are discussing the issue of biosolids and the need for local consultation and governance over them.
Ashcroft Council, at the Feb. 23 meeting, passed a resolution calling on the province to form a committee that includes local politicians, to examine and make recommendations for changes to the provincial biosolid review process and changes to the content in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation and Agricultural Land Commission Act that govern the biosolid regulatory process in BC.
“Biosolids are being moved from the Okanagan to Fraser Nicola without consultation,” said Ashcroft Mayor Jack Jeyes, who also sits as a TNRD Director.
The issue of biosolids has been ongoing in BC for several years, and was front and centre in the local area around 2006 when the Greater Vancouver Regional District wanted to test Nutrifor on local fields. Local farmers and ranchers were opposed to the idea, concerned about possible heavy metal contamination in the product.
Biosolids are produced at wastewater treatement plants by recovering and treating organic material. The TNRD uses biosolids at several of its closed landfills to recover and condition the soil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Besides landfills, biosolids are used around the province for fertilizer and soil enhancement. They have not been approved for agricultural use.
A group of activists set up a road blockade on Hwy 8, 10 km west of Merritt earlier this month to prevent trucks from bringing more biosolids to the Sunshine Valley facility. They are concerned about contamination of their drinking water.
Last Saturday, MLA Jackie Tegart announced that the company “has voluntarily agreed not to accept any product for the next seven days,” while the TNRD meets with provincial officials “to explore options for resolving the immediate issue, and to discuss how to best manage biosolids, including ensuring public concerns are addressed.”
Despite the assurance, the road block remains in place.
“I think biosolids will be front and centre for a while,” said Jeyes.