Turtle Valley residents are meeting this weekend to organize a protest in Kamloops, likely to be held after the Easter long weekend, in light of plans to have thousands of tonnes of City of Kamloops biosolids applied to ranchland in the Turtle Valley area near Chase.
“We’ll probably head into our government offices,” Turtle Valley resident and community spokesperson Connie Seaward told KTW.
“Because it’s not just an issue of we don’t want to be dumped with this toxic waste here in the valley. We think it shouldn’t be on any agricultural land, right?”
She said the issue transcends what the landowner is doing, noting the issue involves organic matter recycling regulations and various levels of government.
“Not just Turtle Valley’s against it,” she said. “Serious change needs to be made.”
The City of Kamloops is working on a long-term solution to manage its biosolids — organic material resulting from treated sewage at its waste-treatment centre on Mission Flats Road.
In the meantime, Arrow Transportation has been hired to manage the biosolids via land application, a process that has come under fire throughout the province, including in Kamloops and Merritt
Arrow’s plan to address the city’s stockpile was to transport about 23,000 tonnes of biosolids to a compost and soil fabrication facility on Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band lands to produce compost that could be blended into soil and used to construct a nine-hole expansion of Talking Rock Golf Course.
Those plans, however, are on hold. Jeff Mayer, regional manager of Arrow Environmental Services, said after a year of working with the First Nation, the band ran into a permitting issue on the Talking Rock land.
“It postponed the project,” Mayer said. “In the interest of keeping the momentum up, LSLIB introduced us to one of their partners, which was the Turtle Valley Bison Ranch. We started exploring alternatives and they were keenly interested in the biosolids project.”
The new plan is to transport the stockpiled biosolids, likely beginning within the next month and carrying on into early fall, to the Turtle Valley Bison Company, where it will be mixed into an enhanced, nutrient-rich soil to reclaim a piece of previously logged property more than 20 hectares in size.
“The idea behind our project is that we can go in there and, using these biosolids — which are very rich in a number of elements that help agricultural land, like nitrogen, phosphorus — we can enhance their land and their soil and we’ll also be recontouring the property so that it would be more stable, less prone to erosion,” Mayer said.
“Then we can actually create for them some usable land.”
About five minutes from that property is the Turtle Valley Donkey Refuge, the location at which up to 100 residents have met and will continue to meet in opposition to plans to spread the biosolids.
Donkey refuge president and co-founder Shirley Mainprize said the registered charity is “vehemently against” the application of biosolids on a hill and beside a lake, calling biosolids “toxic.”
“Our first concern is the donkeys because that’s our mission statement, that we provide a safe home for the donkeys,” she said.
Seaward said she is concerned about the amount of biosolids to be spread on the ranchland and the potential impacts on drinking wells.
“They have done other land applications on farms and things, just not to this extent,” she said.
Seaward criticized current regulations and said the community was not given enough time to be properly consulted.
Mayer said the company chooses its biosolids projects very carefully, including the Turtle Valley application, of which he said the company is “very proud.”
The project was approved by the Ministry of Environment.
Mayer acknowledged conflicting science, but said there is no evidence biosolids impact humans or wildlife.
“At the end of the day, the science that we subscribe to is the science that is endorsed and ultimately informs the regulations that MOE puts in place,” he said, noting the company continues to consult with the community.
“We’re still working actively with engaging the community and putting the final touches on the plan together to make sure that we have as little impact on the community as possible,” Mayer said.
However, Seaward said residents also oppose the project on principle. She said the city has nowhere to put years worth of stockpiled biosolids and is now dumping them in Turtle Valley’s backyard.
“That kind of ticks everybody off,” Seaward said.